If your tax return is complex, most reviewers point to TurboTax Premier as the top choice among tax-preparation software. TurboTax offers a comprehensive interview process, including complicated topics such as multiple stock sales, business deductions, depreciation, mortgage refinancing, rental income and expenses. Reviewers heap praise on its guidance and comprehensive support for less common situations. Testers almost unanimously find it easier to use than its main rival, H&R Block At Home Premium, and this year -- unlike H&R Block -- TurboTax Premier includes unlimited free help from tax experts via phone or online chat.
The boxed and downloadable versions of TurboTax Premier include federal software and one free download of state software; state e-filing is not included. It costs an additional $20 for each state return, but five free federal e-files are included with the software. If you need only one federal e-file and no state software -- and you don't mind doing your taxes via a secure Internet site -- you can save some money by using TurboTax Premier Online 2011, but state software and e-filing costs an extra $37 with the online version.
All TurboTax versions are compatible with Windows and Mac, and most are available as TurboTax for the iPad (*Est. $30 and up), for the same price as the regular online versions. If you don't need the extra tools for handling stock sales or rental property, experts say TurboTax Deluxe 2011 (*Est. $50) is a better buy (the online version is available for $30). If you have a straightforward tax return, or don't need much assistance, TaxACT Online Ultimate 2011 (*Est. $18) is fast and accurate, and it is a great value -- even e-filing a state return is included at no extra charge.
We found lots of useful reviews of TurboTax. PCMag.com, PC World, The New York Times and Macworld test TurboTax with actual or dummy tax returns, comparing them with competing tax programs. About.com tests TurboTax Home and Business, but expert Shelley Elmblad recommends all versions of TurboTax. While many professional reviewers devote their energies to the online version of TurboTax, we found plenty of user reviews for boxed versions of this software at Amazon.com.
Tax expert Kathy Yakal tests the online versions of five top tax programs -- TurboTax, H&R Block At Home, TaxACT, TaxSlayer and CompleteTax -- by using them to complete dummy returns. Her usual favorite, TurboTax, wins again this year. She finds TurboTax Premier Online the most usable program, with the best tax guidance.
Review: TurboTax Premier Online (2011), Kathy Yakal, Jan. 24, 2012
2. PC World
TurboTax beats H&R Block At Home, TaxACT, CompleteTax and Tax Brain software to win this test. Yardena Arar tests each one and concludes that "TurboTax remains the best" -- but it's also the most expensive.
Review: Tax Sites: TurboTax Is Still the One to Beat, Yardena Arar, Feb. 16, 2012
3. The New York Times
Tim Gray tests the premier boxed versions of TurboTax, H&R Block At Home and TaxACT. TurboTax Premier does the best job with his family's taxes, he says, pulling in last year's tax return information without a hitch and smoothly handling a tax credit for his new high-efficiency wood stove.
Review: Taking Tax Software for a Walk, Tim Gray, Feb. 11, 2012
Jeffery Battersby gives TurboTax Premier a perfect rating of 5 after doing his family's taxes with both it and H&R Block software, which gets a 4.5-star rating. Both perform similarly, but Battersby says he prefers TurboTax's more polished user interface.
Review: TurboTax Premier 2011, Jeffery Battersby, Feb. 20, 2012
Shelley Elmblad, About.com's guide to financial software, tests the Home and Business version of TurboTax. TurboTax gets a 4.5-star rating, the same as H&R Block At Home tax software. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: TurboTax Tax Software Review, Shelley Elmblad, Jan. 24, 2012
TurboTax Premier rates an overall 4 stars out of 5 based upon more than 100 customer reviews. We found negative comments from some users who couldn't get the boxed version to install on their computers, had problems importing data or found the program handles certain tax situations clumsily.
Review: TurboTax Premier Federal + e-File + State 2011, Contributors to Amazon.com