Choosing the best tax filing software can sometimes feel like a daunting task.
With so many options, it’s difficult to tell which one will help you get the maximum refund.
TaxAct is one of the best tax software options, which will let you file both simple and complex returns and guarantees you a maximum refund, but it isn't your only option.
TaxAct has some stout competition, and while its affordability used to be a big draw for customers, over the last two years, they've increased their prices substantially without doing much to improve the product.
Plus, TaxAct has one of the most limited free file options this year, even with their prices are going up and up! That's leaving some to look for TaxAct alternatives.
Looking for alternatives?
Our guide will take a deeper look at this software and put it to the test against its competitors to help you choose the best tax software this filing season.
Comparing TaxAct to Other Tax Software Products
Before we delve into each of the tax software program alternatives, take a look at how their basic features stack up to get an idea of the features, cost, and support they have to offer:
Cash App Taxes
Free Version Details
Only free Federal filing this year, and limited to W2, Social Security, and unemployment income.
Robust free tier with W2, Social Security, Unemployment, and more.
Free tier only include W2 income and educational credits.
Only free for W2 and Social Security Income.
100% Free Fed
100% Free Fed and State
$0 - $94.95
$0 - $84.99
$0 - $47.95
$0 - $199
$0 - $22.98
Breaking Down TaxAct Software
TaxAct used to be one of the least expensive tax filing software options, but that's changed over the last several years.
Its pricing starts at $0, and it is best for basic tax returns or use by experienced filers.
Here are a few things you need to know about TaxAct:
- Free Edition – Ideal for individual filers with simple tax situations. Federal costs $0. State costs $39.95 even on the free tier.
- Deluxe Plan – Ideal for moderately complex tax situations. Federal filing costs $46.95, and each state filing costs $54.95.
- Premier Plan – Ideal for the most complex situations except for self-employed individuals and other business owners. Federal filing costs $69.95, and each state filing costs $54.95.
- Self-employed Plan – Has all the features of the premier plan, plus audit defense and other features for $94.95, and state filing costing $54.95.
Compared to previous years, TaxAct has increased the price of their Federal product, and increased the price of their State product (and are charging for state on the free tier) to one of the highest in the industry. Plus, TaxAct’s user experience and customer support are quite unimpressive compared to its major competitors.
You don’t have to worry, however, if TaxAct doesn’t meet your expectations. There are many alternative software options you can try.
They include TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer, FreeTaxUSA, and Cash App Taxes.
Let’s compare each of them with TaxAct so that you can choose the best option.
TaxAct vs. TurboTax
Both providers offer four paid plans. If you opt to add on-screen human assistance via TurboTax Live, you’ll need to pay an additional $79 to $199, depending on the plan and return type you’re using.
For both providers, the free plan allows you to file a 1040 and one state return. However, you aren’t allowed to itemize or file any of the Schedules 1 to 6.
That means the free plans can only work for you if you’re not looking to claim any credits or deductions except for the child tax credit or the earned income tax credit.
When it comes to features and ease of use, TurboTax would be your best choice.
In fact, TurboTax is usually considered the most user-friendly tax filing software on today’s market. Its interview style tax prep interface keeps things simple and easy to follow.
TurboTax also wins when it comes to customer support, thanks to TurboTax Live.
With this feature, you can have a face-to-face chat with a tax expert. TaxAct also offers access to tax experts, but you can’t have a face-to-face conversation with them.
Keep in mind that you have to incur more costs to enjoy TurboTax’s cutting-edge customer support.
Overall, TurboTax has the following pricing tiers:
- $0 Free Tier
- $59 Deluxe Tier
- $89 Premier Tier
- $119 Self-Employed Tier
You can also expect to pay $49 per state tax return.
Overall, TaxAct would be a better option for you as it costs slightly less but can get a great deal of work done.
If you prefer face-to-face support, however, you can decide to dig deeper into your pocket and invest in TurboTax.
TaxAct vs. H&R Block
Both TaxAct and H&R Block allow you to file federal and state taxes, but you will have to pay a bit more with H&R Block. However, once you price in state tax filing fees with TaxAct this year, the pricing is very similar.
Moreover, both providers offer free e-filling, a service that lets you send your tax returns to the state and IRS electronically.
Overall, it is slightly less expensive to file with TaxAct. Nonetheless, you can still save some money with H&R Block’s free version as it supports the regular Form 1040 and Schedule A. This means more income and deductions are support for free.
This year, H&R Block pricing is as follows:
- Free Version - $0
- Deluxe - $54.99
- Premium - $74.99
- Self-Employed - $114.99
You'll also pay $44.99 per state tax return you need to file.
When it comes to features and ease of use, TaxAct’s interface is somewhat unappealing, but it gives you access to all the basic features.
You will also get help throughout your tax preparation process, but the help is less detailed compared to what you get from H&R Block.
H&R Block boasts a straightforward and easy to use interface. It also offers adequate help during the preparation process. The software can direct you to a searchable knowledge base and links to important resources.
With either software, you can import W-2s, which helps to save time. However, H&R Block also allows for 1099 imports. Both providers also provide tools with which you can calculate the deduction values of charitable donations.
When it comes to customer support, H&R Block could be a better option, with physical locations spread across the country.
If you are okay with getting advice online, however, you can capitalize on the help options TaxAct has to offer. The good thing is that both providers offer access to actual tax experts.
Overall, TaxAct offers a slightly better deal if you don’t mind the absence of face-to-face customer support for Federal taxes.
However, if you feel you will need some help and don’t mind the extra cost that comes with it, you probably want to go for H&R Block.
TaxAct vs. TaxSlayer
If you have to choose between TaxAct and TaxSlayer and you are budget-conscious, then you’d be better off with TaxSlayer since it’s less expensive.
The cheapest paid package for TaxSlayer will cost you $29.95 while TaxAct’s will cost you $46.95.
TaxSlayer has the following pricing tiers this year:
- Free version
- $29.95 classic version
- $49.95 premium version
- $59.95 self-employed version
You can also expect to pay $39.95 per state.
Plus, TaxSlayer unlocks all tax forms and options at their lowest price-point (Classic) - so you get a TON more value.
So, if you prefer more features to enjoy a better tax filing experience, invest in TaxSlayer.
When it comes to user-friendliness, TaxSlayer generally provides a great user experience. Nonetheless, TaxAct has a simpler interface and is more user-friendly of the two (slightly - TaxSlayer has come a long way).
TaxAct vs. FreeTaxUSA
FreeTaxUSA has long been an underdog in the tax software market, but it has a devout following due to its simple pricing model.
FreeTaxUSA offers the simple flat pricing: free federal filing and a flat $14.99 per state.
They also offer a Deluxe version for $7.99 which includes audit support.
This is much lower than what you get at any tier of TaxAct, and frankly, FreeTaxUSA is as easy to use (or possibly easier to use) than TaxAct.
If you have to choose between the two options, you're probably better off saving money and using FreeTaxUSA.
TaxAct vs. Cash App Taxes
Cash App Taxes is one of the newest tax software options, and it's also the only option that is truly free for both Federal and State tax returns.
Cash App Taxes is the lowest priced tax software because they offer truly free federal and state tax returns. However, you may be disappointed in what free gets you.
Cash App Taxes doesn't allow for tax filing in multiple states, and doesn't support any foreign earned income. There may be other tax situations that it doesn't support as well.
If you have any complexity in your tax return, TaxAct is probably the better choice. But for simple tax returns, Cash App Taxes is a compelling alternative.
Which Alternative to TaxAct Is Best For You?
TaxAct used to be one of the cheapest tax filing options out there, but that's changed in recent years. With the higher Federal and State prices, it make it hard to justify using TaxAct compared to the alternatives.
TurboTax is simple to use and offers a wide selection of features (including a ton of bank and brokerage import features) and robust customer support. If you’re not experienced in tax filing, this could be an ideal option for you. Keep in mind that it costs more than TaxAct, though.
H&R Block stands out from the rest because it gives you the option to visit one of their offices spread across the country if you need any help. It also has an intuitive interface and uses simple language.
Finally, both FreeTaxUSA and Cash App Taxes offer low priced or free tax filing options that work well for simple tax returns.
TaxAct provides a good middle ground experience among the providers when it comes to cost, usability, and customer service, but you're typically probably better off with one of the other software packages.
The key, once again, is knowing your needs and budget and choosing your tax software accordingly.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Editor: Claire Tak