Consumer Reports say TurboTax, H&R Block, Taxact good for simple returns

Consumer Reports took a closer look at three of the most popular apps or websites that can help you go it alone this tax season.

For Julia Brown, filing her taxes is all about convenience. She uses the popular software TurboTax.

"Between working and going to school, I need something quick, easy, get it done. My tax situation is straight forward, I think it's a good solution and a safe solution for me," she said.

In 2015, IRS reports showed that 40 percent of taxpayers who filed electronically were just like Julia - they didn't use a paid tax preparer.

Consumer Reports said using an online or mobile app can help get the right results.

"We looked at the three most popular tax software products - that's TurboTax, H&R Block, Taxact. We found they're all pretty good for simple situations especially," said Tobie Stanger, Consumer Reports money editor.

She added that filing on your own has become easier with the use of smartphones. All three software products let users automatically upload W2 information, simply by taking a photo.

But what if your tax situation isn't so simple?

"If your tax situation becomes more complicated, say you're self-employed, you're probably going to have to upgrade and that could cost an extra $10 to $60," Stanger said.

Were there donations to places such as Goodwill? Users can usually get a deduction if it is correctly itemized on the return.

Consumer Reports said all three programs have tools to help make itemized deductions easy. Even without an upgrade to more expensive versions, any one of the products should get the job done for the most simple returns.

Of the three, Consumer Reports said "Taxact" has the best value for people who itemize, own a home, or have simple investments.

As for refunds, Brown said her federal refund was automatically deposited just 12 days after she filed.

If you file on your own and run into problems, the tax-prep products allow you to contact them for help. They all offer tax advice from trained professionals, and some even offer a live tax advice help line.
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