Following this year’s discovery that TurboTax and H&R Block have been hiding their cheap tax filing offerings from taxpayers, many consumers may be in the market this tax season for a more transparent online tax preparation solution. Picnic Tax could be that solution.
Unlike traditional tax software, Picnic Tax doesn't require you to complete your own tax filing. Rather, Picnic’s software connects you to a real accountant who prepares your taxes for you. Picnic Tax still provides you with an easy-to-use online system for information collection and document uploading. But you also get a direct connection to a tax professional who will ensure that you are getting the most out of your taxes.
It’s a bit of a hybrid model, well-suited for people looking to work with an accountant but who would like to do so through a modern interface and platform. Plus, it's flat fee - you select what you need for your taxes, and get clear, transparent pricing.
Picnic screens and tests all of its accountants to make sure that they are properly licensed and knowledgeable about the tax code, so you can rest assured that you’ll receive the highest caliber of tax help available.
- Online tax preparation that connects you with a real accountant
- Flat-fee model with clear, up-front pricing
- Base price is $200 for Federal and State return
Picnic Tax Details
Online Tax Prep - All Forms
Starts at $200
One of the things that really jumps out about the Picnic Tax product is the transparent price quote feature on Picnic’s homepage. By clicking a few buttons on the homepage, you know exactly what you’re going to pay before you start the tax filing process. And you’ll only pay for the work that you actually need done.
Picnic Tax's base price is $200 and the company is offering a discount for customers who sign up early this year.
Base price includes up to 2 of the income categories listed on the dynamic price feature on the homepage. So let's say you are full-time employed and have investments but nothing else, then you'd be at $200. Each incremental income stream beyond the first 2 (or each added complexity such as international tax items) which has a button will add another $50 to the pricing.
Picnic Tax isn't necessarily the cheapest online tax option available, but it can provide significant savings compared to visiting an accountant in person.
Given Picnic’s premium service offering, the right price comparison is really with independent accountants or CPAs (which can run well into the $1,000s per tax return) rather than with the basic online tax software options. Plus, it is slightly cheaper than it's main competitor - Visor Tax Prep.
Each Additional Form
I found the Picnic Tax user experience pleasant and easy to use. The process starts with a brief onboarding process to learn about your tax prep needs. The questions asked are simple, direct and easy to answer. The company seems to have been thoughtful about only asking questions that are truly necessary. It’s clear that the goal is to get you matched with an accountant as soon as possible so the accountant can do the hard work for you.
After you get matched, you are asked to visit a document upload page. The page was clear about what to do, with the required docs organized into five easy-to-understand categories. It was fast and efficient to upload your information here - a number of different file formats are supported and the website allows for quick drag-and-drop uploads.
Though I did not test it, it’s supposedly easy to upload your documents on mobile too if you don't have electronic copies available on desktop. You just take a picture with your smartphone (like online check deposit) and upload the docs directly from your phone to Picnic Tax's mobile-optimized website.
Once you docs are uploaded, you’re given access to a dashboard where you can communicate directly with your accountant. This interface was also user-friendly, with a status update box indicating how far along your accountant is with your return. I’ve used other accountants for my taxes in the past and one of my biggest frustrations has been the inability to track where my accountant is in the process so this was a neat feature that I wasn’t expecting but really appreciated.
Picnic Tax Extras
One of the nice features of Picnic Tax is how easy it is to know exactly what you're paying up front. The extras are a simple flat fee of $50 per extra per income stream.
I like this model because it's not by form, but by income stream. Rental income - $50. K1 income - $50.
What Picnic Tax Is Missing
Picnic Tax is missing two things, but honestly, they aren't that impactful.
First, Picnic Tax only does individual tax returns - not businesses. If you have a business, you still may want to use a CPA, or use a robust online tax software option.
Second, Picnic Tax doesn't offer any support for audits after the fact. In many cases, this is an up-sell by tax companies as it's a feature that most don't need. But if you're concerned, you may want to use tax software that offers this option.
I think Picnic Tax is a great solution for a number of different types of people this tax season. It’s a good fit for people who want personalized assistance for their tax returns, without having to do the legwork of finding a qualified accountant on their own.
It can be especially helpful for people with complex tax situations. And with pricing set and disclosed in advance, Picnic Tax is a great option for anyone who’s tired of the lack of price transparency in the rest of the online tax prep market.
Picnic Tax Review: Online Tax Prep
- Navigation - 100
- Ease of Use - 100
- Features and Options - 80
- Customer Service - 80
- Plans and Pricing - 80
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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