TaxAct’s no-nonsense design will be a turnoff for some, but the cost is lower than many competitors and there’s free chat and phone support for paid users. The interface isn’t fancy and there’s less of a Q&A feel than other packages, but the data-entry process in general is similar to most and there are some tools to help you along.
- Generally cheaper than similar offerings elsewhere
- Less of a Q&A feel than other packages have
- Support available via chat and phone
TaxAct’s products are in most cases less expensive than competing packages from bigger names like TurboTax and H&R Block. That’s no small thing, especially for people who need advanced tax software, which can run $100 or more elsewhere when you factor in the price of preparing a state return. TaxAct also has a price-lock guarantee, which means you pay the listed price when you start your return rather than when you finish. This might be helpful because, in our experience, tax software prices tend to go up about a month before the filing deadline.
TaxAct’s free version is available only to people who qualify to file the 1040EZ; folks who have to file a 1040A or regular 1040 will need to get one of the paid versions. The paid versions import last year’s TaxAct return.
Available packages and list prices
This option allows you to file a 1040EZ and a state return for free. You can access up to three years of prior TaxAct returns for free.
This is the package for filers with dependents, retirement income or college bills. Beware: it's not for big itemizers, investors or landlords, it's basically for people filing a 1040A.
This is the package for itemizers. If you own rental properties, this version also has you covered, and there’s a built-in donation assistant to help you calculate the deduction value of your charitable giving.
New this year is the freelancer package, built especially for independent contractors and self-employed filers.
TaxAct’s highest-end version for online filers has all the features of the Plus and Freelancer versions, the Audit Defense product.
One note about prices: Providers frequently change theirs, and we’ve found at least one serving up small variations to users in different locations. We’ll keep updating this review, but you can verify the latest price by clicking through to the provider’s site.
TaxAct also offers desktop software, but it’s not part of our review. Desktop means your return doesn’t reside in the cloud; it stays on your computer while you work on it. People who have used the desktop version before will see a cosmetic difference compared with the cloud, but the steps are similar — and, of course, the math is the same.
TaxAct’s features and ease of use
Some competitors may have spent time tweaking design elements and color palettes, but TaxAct has largely stuck with what worked last year — and that’s just fine. It has all the basics, such as importing last year’s returns, a W-2 import, a donation assistant and some planning tools and calculators. And because the software is online, you can log in from other devices if you’re working on your return here and there.
TaxAct redesigned its mobile app, and new this year is the ability to start and file your return on any device. All of the company’s products are available via mobile, and this year the app has smart camera functionality so you can capture your W-2 instantly.
Like many other tax packages, help is available throughout the preparation process, but higher-priced competitors seem to have more robust in-line help. As with most software packages, a banner running across the top keeps track of where you are in the process.
Support options with TaxAct
Ways to get help
- Searchable knowledge base
- Free support by phone
- Free support by live chat
TaxAct will hook you up with a CPA or IRS Enrolled Agent (EA) over the phone or via live chat if you need help. Free tax help via phone (for paid users) is a rare find, especially for software at this price point, and during tax season it’s generally available Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET; Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The company says its tax specialists don’t provide “tax advice” but do provide “tax support” in terms of helping users understand what forms they may need and where to put information on forms.
Email support is elusive. TaxAct is working to funnel support requests to phone and online chat instead of email this year.
TaxAct also has an online knowledge base that users can search for answers about specific tax issues. It’s not as robust as some competitors’ offerings, but free phone and chat support may compensate for that.
If you’re audited
Getting audited is scary, so it’s important to know what kind of support you’re getting from your tax software. First, be sure you know the difference between “support” and “defense.” With most providers, audit support (or “assistance”) typically means guidance about what to expect and how to prepare — that’s it. Audit defense, on the other hand, gets you full representation before the IRS from a tax professional.
TaxAct’s audit assistance consists of a FAQ page on its website. But customers can buy a product called Audit Defense from a partner company called Protection Plus. Coverage includes three years of audit services for this year’s return, and TaxAct says it includes comprehensive response and resolution strategy, IRS and state correspondence, help with denied credits, and tax debt and tax fraud assistance. That service is included in the Premium package and runs $39 for everyone else.
No matter how you file, you can choose to receive your refund via direct deposit to a bank account (the fastest option) or in the form of a paper check. Other options include applying the refund to next year’s taxes or directing the IRS to buy U.S. Savings Bonds with your refund.
TaxAct can also put your refund on an American Express Serve prepaid debit card. And if you’re using a paid version, you have the option of paying for the software out of your refund — but there’s a $25 charge to do that.
How does TaxAct compare?
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|TaxAct’s no-nonsense design will be a turnoff for some, but the cost is lower than many competitors and there’s chat and phone support.|
The interface isn’t fancy and there’s less of a Q&A feel than other packages, but the data-entry process in general is similar to most and there are plenty of tools to help you along.
|TurboTax stands out for how easy it is to use and its intuitive design and flow.|
It’s pricier than most, but while confident filers may not need the bells and whistles and can find better value elsewhere, many people will find this experience to be worth a few extra dollars.
|H&R Block’s software is a solid contender in the crowded market for tax software, and its network of brick-and-mortar locations offers a warm, fuzzy security blanket.
The interface is straightforward and easy to use, and the free version is one of the best on the market.
The bottom line
Across the board, TaxAct’s offerings are less expensive than similar products from competing providers. That’s a nice score — especially for filers who don’t care about a fancy product and aren’t worried about getting audited but want to be able to talk to a human if necessary.