Tax season tends to sneak-up very quickly after the holidays so we’ve looked at the very best tax software for Mac of 2017 and 2018 to maximize your tax refund. The software covered here is suitable for everything from straightforward income tax software for Mac to small business tax software for Mac users. When it comes to tax software in general, there’s still far more choice on PC and Windows than Mac and OS X but the big two – TurboTax and H&R Block both have established Mac versions (and both are also available on PC too so this article will be of interest to Windows users too). Although we will also touch on online tax software that Mac users can also go far, none of them measure-up to TurboTax and H&R Block in terms of features, support, reliability and maximizing your tax refund. Please note that all tax preparation software for Mac that currently exists is designed for filing taxes in the USA and Canada only and all are compatible with El Capitan and Sierra.
Mac Tax Software: Before You File
The three most important aspects to any tax software is that it does things accurately, simply and maximizes your return by the tax filing deadline of April 18th. The sort of information most people will need to enter into tax software are typically:
- W-2 Income
- College Tuition Expenses
- Interest and Dividend Income
- Mortgage Interest
- Other Income and Expenses
It’s therefore important to make sure that you have all of the information at your fingertips that you need to enter into your tax software before you get started. Important documents and information to make sure you have include:
- W-2 and 1099: One handy feature of both TurboTax and H&R Block is that they both allow you to take a photo of these documents and import them into the software.
- Student loan interest form including tuition fees (1098-E)
- Mortgage and Property interest (Form 1098)
- Contributions to IRAs or retirement funds
- Any medical bills greater than 10% of your income
- Receipts for business expenses and other deductibles
- Charitable donation receipts
If you’ve got these handy, it will make life easier whichever tax software you choose on your Mac ensuring that entering data is easy, transparent and structured so that you don’t end-up wondering if there’s something missing or if you’ve forgotten something. Aside from being prepared with the right documentation however, there are also a few other essential things to consider before deciding whether you should use tax software on your Mac.
- 1 Does Your State Or Region Support Electronic Tax Filing?
- 2 Which Credits, Refunds And Deductions Are Supported?
- 3 Accuracy And Audit Protection Guarantees
- 4 Customer Support
- 5 Support For iPads and iPhones
- 6 Tax Advisors
- 7 TurboTax (Free / $39.85+) / Canadian Version Available
- 8 H&R Block (Free / $14.90+) / Canadian Version Available
- 9 TaxAct (Free / $27+)
- 10 OnePriceTaxes (Free/$19.95+)
Does Your State Or Region Support Electronic Tax Filing?
One of the obvious advantages of tax software is that you can file taxes electronically but some states or regions do not accept e-filing of taxes or returns completed on certain tax software. You should always check with either the software vendor or Department Of Revenue in your state whether the software you are purchasing supports electronic filing to avoid nasty surprises at the end of the process. Some States issue a list of software that they officially accept electronic filed returns from such as Minnesota which accepts H&R Block but doesn’t accept TurboTax for example. Other states such as Florida, Nevada, Washington, Texas and several more have had at some stage or continue to have, a policy against e-filing. Particularly after the TurboTax fraud scandal in 2015, it’s possible that less States will support e-filing with TurboTax so make sure you check before buying.
Which Credits, Refunds And Deductions Are Supported?
If you’ve made a big purchase (such as a hybrid or electric car) and are expecting a nice big refund for it, double-check that the tax software supports those kind of returns. Tax software vendors usually keep software updated annually regarding tax laws and what’s refundable or not but they’re not always bang on the ball so check with the developer first if you’ve made a major purchase. Important credits and deductions worth looking in any tax software for Mac include:
- Charity Donations
- Itemized Deductions
- Business Owner Deductions
- Depreciation Summaries
- Rental Property Deductions
Finally, it’s also worth checking what payment methods the tax software accepts tax refunds such as check, bank transfer, prepaid debit card, credit card, savings bonds etc as some only support specific refund types.
Accuracy And Audit Protection Guarantees
Check whether the software offers any guarantees regarding accuracy and audit protection. Both TurboTax and HR Block offer guarantees for both which gives you some support or financial compensation if you’re informed by by the IRS that there’s a problem with your return. Along with deduction maximization and general support, this is one of the major differences between paid tax software and free or online tax software. For instance, TurboTax’s Audit Defense feature means that in the case of an audit, an Intuit tax professional will take care of administrating an audit so that you can concentrate on other things. TurboTax also offers an accuracy guarantee that in case of any inaccuracies, it will pay any of your IRS penalties. H&R Block offers a very similar accuracy guarantee and free in person Audit Support which allows you to actually go to an H&R Block office and talk to someone face to face. Note however that neither TurboTax not H&R Block provide guarantees that you won’t be audited – they simply provide comprehensive backup and mediation if you are.
If things go wrong when filing your taxes, it can be extremely stressful. It’s therefore a good idea to check opinions as to whether the software offers good customer support. HR Block for example is excellent in this respect because you can go into one of its local offices and talk to a tax software professional about your problem. Intuit’s TurboTax support meanwhile is limited to phone support although you can live connect to fax professionals directly from TurboTax if you have any problems. However, if you’ve ever had to use Intuit’s Quicken for Mac’s live chat support, you’ll know that this can be a very frustrating experience. Don’t underestimate how valuable after sales support can be when it comes to the complexities of tax returns.
Support For iPads and iPhones
If you want to use the tax software alongside your iOS device, both TurboTax and H&R Block have iOS apps which allow you to file tax returns direct from your iOS device or at least help you fill in your tax return by taking a photo of your W2. Both TurboTax for iPad and H&R Block for iPad now allow you to file from your iOS device and take photos of your W2. You can also file directly from your smartphone if you want although with mobiles generally less secure than Macs, it’s less advisable.
No tax software can replace a professional tax adviser or accountant for complex returns. If your taxes are complicated, we strongly recommend hiring a professional rather than going it on you’re own using software. It can be extremely stressful if you run into problems or uncertainty with tax software and for the time and stress it takes to sort out, you may even find a professional tax consultant works out cheaper and considerably less stressful in the long run.
Top Tax Software For Mac
Since TurboTax and H&R Block dominate the tax software market, they will be main focus of this review. However, we also look at other tax software that Mac users can use including online tax software afterwards. We still prefer desktop tax filing software to online solutions however because a single desktop purchase allows you to file multiple returns whereas online, you have to pay per tax return you file. It’s arguably more secure too although most online tax software is encrypted and the differences in security vs desktop software are not as big an issue as they used to be.
One of the most important things to know about both TurboTax and H&R Block is that they both provide different versions of the software depending on your tax needs. These range from free software for Federal tax returns to more expensive small business tax software for Mac. It’s very important to purchase the right version to ensure that it supports the kind of taxes you need to file so you don’t get any nasty surprises afterwards. To make matters complicated, with each tax season both TurboTax and H&R Block frequently change both the pricing and which versions support which type of tax returns much to the frustration of users.
Although there’s an up front cost for both, good tax software is well worth the investment as it will increase the chance of refunds and reduce the chance of audits. Even if you turn to a professional, if your accounts are straightforward, it’s likely a tax professional will use some kind of tax calculation software application anyway so you might as well buy one and learn how to do it yourself on your Mac.
Here we take an in-depth look at both H&R Block for Mac and TurboTax for Mac starting with TurboTax. Note that for all versions of both TurboTax and H&R Block, there are State filing costs too. All prices are accurate at the time of writing but may vary.
Intuit’s TurboTax for Mac still remains the most popular tax software on Mac but as with Quicken for Mac, Intuit has had a rocky relationship with Mac users over the years (although they have made big improvements to the latest version of Quicken 2017 for Mac). One of the main reasons for this is that the Mac version of Quicken isn’t as good or complete as the Windows version. The good news is that TurboTax for Mac doesn’t have this problem but recent decisions regarding the pricing structure haven’t gone down well with PC and Mac users alike. The most contentious recent move by Intuit was its decision in 2016 to remove Schedule C and D tax returns from the Deluxe Version ($34.99) and package it into it’s new Home & Business ($79.99) version meaning the Deluxe version that users purchased in 2015 is no longer suitable as an LLC tax software for Mac anymore.
However, TurboTax is still a very easy to use and comprehensive tax software for Mac that has over 350 tax deductions which double checks your tax returns and guarantees 100% accuracy in calculations.
TurboTax Version Differences On Mac
There are four different versions of TurboTax for Mac: Federal Free, Deluxe, Premier and Home & Business. Here we take a closer look at each one.
The good news is that you can get free tax software for Mac from TurboTax if all you need is to make simple 1040EZ/1040A tax returns. This version allows you to prepare and e-file both federal and state taxes. Although federal filing is free, some states require a fee for filing. To get TurboTax Federal for free, you must simply subtract the fee from your federal tax refund and have the balance of your refund deposited directly to your bank account – you don’t need a credit card either.
The Deluxe Edition of TurboTax includes all the features in the Federal Free Edition with the inclusion of access to basic deduction identification tools and improved support. Deluxe claims to maximize your tax deductions by identifying more areas where there are industry or occupation specific deduction opportunities. There are also enhanced tools for things like inheritances, donations and audit risk protection.
TurboTax Premier Edition gives you full access to all features of the software with deduction assistance that includes support for rental properties and other business-specific tax deductions. It also has advanced calculators and additional investment resources for those with stocks, shares, funds and other assets.
This is now the most expensive version of TurboTax and essential for small business owners and professional tax software for Schedule B and C tax returns which used to be part of the lower priced Deluxe version. Although these features used to be part of TurboTax Deluxe, at $79 it’s a lot cheaper than hiring an accountant and if your returns are fairly straightforward, it’s still worth the investment if you’re going to use it regularly.
To get a better idea of the difference between each version, check out the TurboTax comparison chart.
Using TurboTax On Mac
While TurboTax is generally very easy to use and holds your hand closely during the process of entering your data, TurboTax on Mac can be very fussy sometimes about entering data. For example, even entering something as simple as a social security number requires endless steps walk-throughs which can make the process very frustrating. In general though, the layout and format of TurboTax is well done and there are easy to follow deduction tools. TurboTax makes it very clear how to fill in your returns and there are some nifty little features such as “W-2 Snap & Autofill” which allows you to take a picture of your W2 on your Mac or iOS device and upload it. In TurboTax 2015, there’s also a new feature called SmartLook which automatically connects you to one of Intuit’s tax specialists if you have a tax doubt or question. This is bolstered with an “ExplainWhy” feature which helps explain certain fields and requirements in your tax return.
For personal income tax returns, TurboTax has an easy to use and comprehensive Federal Free Edition that includes 1040EZ, 1040A, and 1040 forms including live chat support. Since there are so many users of TurboTax on both Mac and Windows, the TurboTax AnswerXchange Site is very extensive with a thriving user base. Chances are, if you encounter a problem with TurboTax, someone else has probably had the same problem and the answer will be in AnswerXchange
There are other useful features of TurboTax to give you peace of mind too. Accuracy Protection means that if TurboTax calculates your taxes incorrectly, Intuit will pay any fees or money owed to the IRS. It also offers three levels of audit protection – Audit Risk Meter, Audit Support Guarantee and Audit Defense. The Risk Meter appears while you are filling out forms to show you if there are any potential problems with your form. The Audit Support Guarantee provides guidance from a tax professional if the IRS contacts you and finally Audit Defense is an optional service that provides full audit representation by a licensed tax professional (although unlike with H&R Block, this comes at an extra cost to the software itself). Audit Defense means that Intuit provides full tax specialist and legal support if you are audited as a result of a tax return completed with TurboTax for Mac. There’s also something called MAX which is an enhancement to Audit Defense and includes things such as Tax Identity Restoration and quicker response times from Intuit.
TurboTax For Mac Summary
TurboTax is still the most widely used tax software on Mac although it has lost ground in recent years to H&R Block, partly due to its pricing policy and removal of features from cheaper versions and putting them in more expensive version. It does also feel like TurboTax requires you to pay more for features that come with the price of the software in H&R Block such as Audit Defense and MAX. There used to be a free TurboTax desktop app for Mac from the Mac App Store but this is no longer available. The negative press surrounding incidences of TurboTax fraud in 2015 has no doubt also damaged confidence in the product although in an effort to reassure customers, TurboTax has focused on significantly improving security.
As with Quicken for Mac, there are other functionality, usability and connection issues which may sometimes leave Mac users fuming too. For example, downloading transactions on Quicken can be notoriously buggy (although Quicken 2017 For Mac has made huge improvements all round) and the same goes for when you try to file online with TurboTax – failed connections and inability to file properly online can be very frustrating.
Overall though, TurboTax is easier than ever to use and if you don’t need the peace of mind of being able to speak to someone face to face about your tax filings, TurboTax is still a good choice. You can watch an overview of how TurboTax for Mac works below:
Along with TurboTax, H&R Block or “Block” as it’s more commonly known, is the leading tax software on Mac. The most unique feature of H&R Block is that it has over 12,000 physical offices around the US where you can actually talk face-to-face with a tax specialist if you’re having problems. Anyone that has spent hours on the phone to for any kind of software support will vouch for how much stress and hassle this can potentially save. The most basic version of HR Block costs $19.95 but it does contains all IRS forms unlike TurboTax that has now removed many tax forms from its equivalent basic version. You can file Federal taxes for free however with H&R Block online Free Edition which provides everything, including free tax advice at no extra cost like all H&R Block products. Another useful feature is that if you’ve already got data stored in TurboTax, you can import it into HR Block.
HR Block is ideal for small business owners that may have slightly more complex tax returns, especially because you can see someone face-to-face to have a look over your finances in one of their offices. There are 4 version of HR Block available – Basic, Deluxe, Premium and Premium & Business. Like TurboTax, H&R Block has increased the price of its higher level products recently. For example, the Deluxe Version has effectively now doubled in price from last year as the homeowner and investor features in the Deluxe version used to be available in the Basic version. All versions advise you where can make deductions to help maximize your refund and offer tax advice over the phone from a professional.
The differences between each one follow a similar model to TurboTax but with slight differences.
The Basic version is for those with simple tax returns. It can import your W2, 1099 and previous year’s tax return from TurboTax. It will also do Schedule A itemized deductions and includes Refund Reveal – a useful tool which explains and shows exactly how much you can expect to get back.
The Deluxe version is necessary for homeowners and investors to complete e-filing. It includes all the features of Basic plus guidance on home and mortgage interests and help with investments and dividends.
The Premium version includes all of the Deluxe but also supports all Schedule C returns for small business owners and schedule E returns for rental property income.
The Premium is the complete business tax preparation software for small business owners but also includes corporate, partnership and LLC returns. It can also generate payroll and employer forms. However, Premium & Business is not available for Mac – it’s Windows only for some reason. This HR Block comparison table perhaps gives a more detailed overview of the precise difference between each version:
There are some other advantages of H&R Block for Mac vs TurboTax for Mac that apply to all versions:
- Refund Guarantee: If you’re able to get a higher refund with another tax software, H&R Block will refund you the difference
- 100% Accuracy Guarantee: H&R Block will refund you for any penalties imposed by the IRS as a result of inaccuracies
- Audit Protection: H&R Block will take care of administration of any audits caused as a result of filing with it’s software. Note that this is not a protection against being audited by the IRS.
- Secure Connections: H&R Block uses several layers of security protection when it comes to filing online.
- Like TurboTax, you can also file online using your iOS device such as iPhone or iPad and take pictures of W2 forms. H&R Block for Mac however can even look-up your W2 form for you.
In terms of price, you definitely get more for your buck with H&R Block compared to TurboTax. Added extras in TurboTax (and online tax software such as TaxAct which we’ll look at shortly), are included as standard in H&R Block as you can see from this comparison table:
H&R Block For Mac Summary
H&R Block has gained much ground on TurboTax in recent years. The differences between TurboTax and H&R Block are increasingly minor but H&R Block offers the big bonus of face-to-face customer support in a physical office at no extra cost. It also promises to refund you in case of any mistakes that can be proved were caused by the software and H&R Block will even handle any audits requested by the IRS as a result of using the software. TurboTax has slightly more attractive form wizards and interface touches but H&R Block still looks good and does the job very efficiently indeed. If you want the peace of mind of being able to see someone in person if there’s a problem with your taxes, or want to switch and import data from TurboTax, you can’t do any better than H&R Block.
You can watch an overview of how H&R Block for Mac works below:
Best Online Tax Software For Mac
Apart from TurboTax and H&R Block, there are other online tax software that you can use on your Mac. None can compare to the big two in terms of features, guarantees and maximizing your returns but they are often cheaper and don’t require downloading any software. It’s also worth noting that if you feel like you don’t need any help from tax software to file your tax returns, you can file online for free with the IRS Free File service. Depending on your financial situation and region, you may also be able to get free state tax preparation assistance as well.
Here’s a few to consider if you choose to go the online route.
TaxAct is probably the most popular online alternative to both TurboTax and H&R Block. It does not have a Mac app but it offers a very competitive online service that Mac users can use. TaxAct definitely has a look and feel that’s clearly inspired by TurboTax and H&R Block but is considerably cheaper with the most expensive premium version costing $19.99. In fact, TaxAct claims that you can save up to $53 less than TurboTax with TaxAct. However, be aware that most online tax filing services such as TaxAct are very aggressive on the upsell encouraging you to upgrade from the free version and even lock-in prices for next years tax returns.
The pricing model for TaxAct is slightly simpler than TurboTax and H&R Block. There are 3 versions of TaxAct – Free, Plus and Premium all of which are cheaper than the equivalents of the big two.
TaxAct claims that this offers significant savings on both TurboTax and H&R Block as it provides several features for free or cheaper than either of the big two:
On the surface it looks like a pretty good deal with the same features as H&R Block and TurboTax. However the reality is that using it is another thing altogether. For instance, TaxAct claims that the Basic and Plus versions can import investments, 1099s forms, Schedule K-1s and PDFs but this often doesn’t work very well if at all. The number of financial institutions you can import from is also very limited, with even major banks such as Morgan Stanley not supported. Windows users have also found that if do purchase the desktop version, you can’t export all the data you’ve filled in online to the desktop app (although this isn’t an issue for Mac users as there is no Mac desktop app).
TaxAct does provide a useful summary of deductions you can make although TurboTax and H&R Block are better at identifying deductions to maximize your refunds.
TaxAct does the job but it’s not all as plain sailing as it should be. You can definitely save some up front cash buying TaxAct but in the long run, you’ll probably get more back in tax returns from TurboTax or H&R Block.
OnePrice Taxes used to have a Mac app known as E-file Cloud but is now completely online. It’s a little known online tax software that’s a surprisingly good, albeit basic alternative to TurboTax and H&R Block. OnePriceTaxes.com was developed by a small team of computer programmers who were tired of the bait-and-switch, multi-tiered, tax filing sites. The result is an easy to use and affordable tax filing platform that provides a refreshing alternative to the big two of TurboTax and HR Block.
OnePriceTaxes takes around 30 minutes to file all your taxes. You can complete simple or complex returns and include your state return too. OnePriceTaxes is refreshing because there are no confusing add-ons or hidden fees for specific types of taxes. It allows you to see what your tax refund will be before choosing whether you want to file Federal and State taxes online.
After signing-up for a free account, you can start entering your personal information and tax data.
The best thing about OnePriceTaxes is that it’s incredibly easy to fill in. Since there are none of the fancy features or setup wizards found in TurboTax and H&R Block, it’s very straightforward to fill in and use. Once you’ve entered essential information such as your name, address and social security number, you simply have to fill in information about any dependents you have, review your return with the estimated refund and then file online.
OnePriceTaxes for Mac includes most return forms including small business Schedule C, Rental Property Schedule E and various 1099 forms. It does allow you to enter deductions but unlike TurboTax and H&R Block, it won’t help you maximize your returns or identify areas where you could be deducting more.
If you’re not worried about maximizing your returns and know what you’re doing when it comes to deductions and which forms you need, OnePriceTaxes is a refreshingly simple and cheap tax software for Mac that anyone can use.
Other Tax Software For Mac
There are other online options that are very similar to TaxAct and OnePriceTaxes such as TaxSlayer and eSmartTax. Like TaxAct, both guide you through the tax filing process smoothly and make it easy to enter data. However, along with the aforementioned import issues that affect TacAct, the biggest downside you’ll find to free online tax software such as these is that they simply don’t identify deductions as well as TurboTax and H&R Block. For example, TaxSlayer doesn’t deduct simple things such as charity donations, rental properties, sale of home features etc although it does have special tax returns for military personnel. Some of these features can be unlocked if you upgrade to the premium versions but if it gets to that stage, you might as well purchase either TurboTax or H&R Block.
The other drawback is that the level of support in all online tax software is also considerably more limited compared to TurboTax and H&R Block and require purchasing of premium versions to access. In TurboTax for exanple, you can start instantly chatting with customer services via a Live Chat tab. H&R Block even allows you to go into one of it’s offices and get face-to-face help from its customer service team and tax advisors. The one exception in the online tax software arena is eSmartTax which is owned by Liberty Tax and allows you to go into a Liberty Tax office for face to face help.
It’s safe to say the best tax software on Mac continues to be a toss-up between TurboTax and H&R Block. If you’re a fan of Intuit products such as Quicken for Mac, then you’ll probably be familiar with the TurboTax way of doing things. If you’ve had nothing but bad experiences with Quicken on Mac or would like the peace of mind of knowing you can visit a tax professional in person, you’ll probably find H&R Block is best for you. We like H&R Block for the personal touch but TurboTax is arguably slightly quicker and slicker to use.
In general, you usually get what you pay for with tax software on Mac and the initial investment in either software is usually recouped in the refunds that they help you get. Online tax software may be cheaper but the usability and features aren’t as good and the returns you can hope to get are often less.
If you found this article on the useful and you’re a Quicken user, you may also find our look at Quicken alternatives for Mac users interesting too.
If you have any questions or suggestions regarding tax software for Mac or any of the software and services featured here, let us know in the comments below.