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 is a big draw for filers, TaxAct's customer service and user experience leave something to be desired. Plus, TaxAct has one of the most limited free file options this year. 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:
Free Version Details
The most limited free version, allows you to file a 1040 and state return if you have no dependents.
The free version lets you file a 1040 and Schedules 1-6, making it ideal for people with uncomplicated taxes.
The free basic version allows you to file a 1040 and your state taxes.
The free version of TurboTax lets you file a 1040 and a state return provided you don’t itemize. However, you cannot use the free version to file Schedules 1-6.
TaxAct offers some very cheap entry level tax software, including a Deluxe package for just $24.95. Even their top tier “Premier” tax software costs only $34.95 for federal only.
Deluxe online tax filing with H&R Block starts at $29.99. You can also make an in-office appointment and receive individualized help for as little as $59.99.
TaxSlayer’s Classic version starts at just $17. This basic tax program includes features like support with deductions and credits, IRS Inquiry Assistance, and easy online uploads. The top tier Premium software starts at just $47.
TurboTax offers multiple online options that start at $40. The plan at this price — called Deluxe —comes with guidance to help you maximize your deductions, live customer support, and more.
Breaking Down TaxAct Software
TaxAct is one of the least expensive tax filing software options you can get today.
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. Both federal and state filing cost $0.
- Deluxe Plan – Ideal for moderately complex tax situations. Federal filing costs $24.95, and each state filing costs $44.95.
- Premier Plan – Ideal for the most complex situations except for self-employed individuals and other business owners. Federal filing costs $34.95, and each state filing costs $44.95.
- Self-employed Plan – Has all the features of the premier plan, plus audit defense and other features for $64.95, and state filing costing $44.95.
Compared to previous years, TaxAct has lowered the price of their Federal product, but increased the price of their State product. 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, and TaxSlayer.
Let’s compare each of them with TaxAct so that you can choose the best option.
TaxAct vs. TurboTax
Moreover, both have a genuinely free version. That means you won’t pay a dime to file a state return.
Both providers offer four paid plans. If you opt to add on-screen human assistance via TurboTax Live Help, you’ll need to pay an additional $40 to $170, 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, TaxAct would be a better option for you as it costs 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 state taxes, but you will have to pay a bit more with H&R Block.
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.
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 better deal if you don’t mind the absence of face-to-face customer support.
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 TaxAct since it’s less expensive.
The cheapest paid package for TaxSlayer will cost you $17 while TaxAct’s will cost you $29.95.
However, the affordability of TaxAct comes with a cost. You’ll have to work with fewer features compared to TaxSlayer.
So, if you prefer more features to enjoy a better tax filing experience, you will have to dig deeper into your pocket and invest in TaxSlayer.
That said, TaxSlayer is not that expensive when you consider the features it provides.
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.
TaxSlayer’s user experience is not a very pleasant one when you first begin the tax filing process, with a design that is somewhat wanting.
While TaxSlayer will still get the job done, you are more likely to have challenges during the preparation process than you would when filing with TaxAct.
Which Alternative to TaxAct Is Best For You?
TaxAct is one of the cheapest tax filing software options out there. It's ideal for experienced filers, it's easy to use, and it gives you access to all the features you need.
Unfortunately, there’s so much upfront preparation required that it may be challenging for first-time filers.
TurboTax, on the other hand, is simple to use and offers a wide selection of 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.
This software would be ideal for experienced small business owners.
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.
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