When it comes to doing your taxes, you can file it yourself, hire a tax accountant to do it for you, or use a tax preparer. TaxAct®, TurboTax®, and TaxSlayer® are three of the leading online tax preparation services. All three offer features for taxpayers looking to do their own taxes online. And it offers varying levels of professional support as well as a variety of features.
TaxAct vs. TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer High-Level Comparison
Here is a high-level comparison of the three services.
|Plans and Prices||Basic: $0 plus $4.95 for state.Deluxe: $24.95 plus $44.95 for state.Premier: $34.95 plus $44.95 for state.Self-employed: $64.95 plus $44.95 for state.||Free: $0 for federal plus state.Deluxe: $60 plus $50 for state.Premier: $90 plus $50 for state.Self-employed: $120 plus $50 for state.||Simply Free: $0Classic: $17 plus $32 for state.Premium: $37 plus $32 for state.Self-employed: $47 plus $32 for state.|
|Customer Service||Live chat and phone: M–F 8 A.M.–5 P.M. Central Time. Extended hours including weekends from Jan. to April. Email.||Online community support. Live chat if you sign up for Premium services.||Email support, live chat and phone.|
|Live Tax Option?||Yes, starts at $35 for Basic and goes up to $139.95 for Self-employed.||Yes, starts at $130 for Basic and goes up to $260 for Premier and Self-employed.||No.|
|Import Data From Other Software?||Yes||Yes||Yes, if it’s in PDF format|
Quick Overview of Each Service
TaxAct has been around since 1998 and positions itself as a low-cost alternative to other tax preparation software. It doesn’t offer all of the bells and whistles that some other tax preparation programs offer. But TaxAct is very affordable for the preparation of federal returns. It can be pricey for use with some state returns.
TaxAct offers a good value to users but less handholding than some other services. It is a good option for users who have a good handle on preparing their own taxes with minimal guidance.
TurboTax is one of the oldest DIY tax software programs on the market; it has been around since the 1984. The original versions were available on floppy disks. TurboTax is owned by Intuit who also owns QuickBooks and personal finance software Mint. TurboTax is available on CD-ROM, but our focus here is the online version. Overall, TurboTax is one of the most complete DIY tax preparation programs. The program makes users feel like they are receiving guidance all the way through.
TaxSlayer has its roots in a family tax preparation business. TaxSlayer has a number of solid features and is easy to use. And it’s price points are lower than TurboTax and TaxAct. The program is entirely cloud based. TaxSlayer offers free service to active military members. Investors can also use its classic filing package to report earned income from investing without the need to pay for more extensive packages.
Unique Features of Each Brand
TaxAct offers robust features at a lower price point than TurboTax. But there is less handholding than some other products.
- TaxAct is better suited for those who are comfortable doing their taxes and who don’t need the hands-on support offered by some other programs.
- Tacxact offers an Xpert™ version that lets you talk with tax experts anytime during the tax preparation process. You can get advice from Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and other tax specialists whenever you have a question.
- TaxAct has a number of options for those receiving refunds including its Marketplace gift cards available for a number of retailers. It offers access to forms for those filing for a C corporation or nonprofit organization. It also offers helpful year-round tools with the self-employed version.
For business owners who use Intuit’s QuickBooks product and individuals who use Quicken personal finance software, it’s easy to import data from these programs into TurboTax.
For an extra fee, users have the ability to speak with tax professionals such as Enrolled Agents and CPAs for advice. Its advice options are the most comprehensive of the three programs. This includes not only audit support but also representation in front of the IRS in the event you are audited.
TaxSlayer is the most budget-friendly of the three products. For those who are confident in their ability to do their own taxes and who don’t want to pay for extra handholding features, TaxSlayer is a good choice. It even offers an app so you can file your taxes from your smartphone or use its refund calculator.
You get access to live chat with its Premium service and can even ask a tax pro questions. However, it doesn’t offer live onscreen support like TurboTax and TaxAct. And its customer service offering is not as extensive.
How Are They the Same?
All three tax programs offer multiple versions of the software with different features at different price points. All three programs offer these features:
- A free version
- Import functions from other programs or sources
- Features for small businesses
- Features geared to investors
- Audit assistance
- Refund tracking
- Varying accuracy guarantees
How Are They Different?
While all three tax software programs offer the basics in terms of being able to file individual and small business returns, there are a number of differences in the programs.
Some differences between the three packages are:
- TaxAct is probably in-between the two other services in terms of pricing and the availability of support. The software is good and allows you to prepare most types or individual and small business returns. And you can get tax support from experts at any time during the process with the Xpert plans. Go to TaxAct’s portal to learn more.
- TurboTax is the most expensive and the most robust of the three packages. It offers the most support including access to tax professionals who can provide advice both in your tax preparation and if you are audited by the IRS. Go to TurboTax’s portal to learn more.
- TaxSlayer offers a quality program at a low price. But the software does not offer all of the bells and whistles of some other programs. It is a good option for those who are confident in their ability to do their own taxes. Go to TaxSlayer’s portal to learn more.
Pricing and Fees
TaxAct offers several versions of its program at various price points:
- It offers a free version for federal returns but charges $4.95 for state tax preparation.
- TaxAct Deluxe is $24.95 for federal returns plus $44.95 for state returns.
- TaxAct Premier is $34.95 for federal returns plus $44.95 for state returns.
- TaxAct Self-employed is $64.95 for federal returns plus $44.95 for state returns.
- Xpert advice prices range from $35 to $139.95 plus extra for state returns.
TurboTax offers several versions of its program at various price points:
- It offers a free version for both federal and state tax preparation.
- TurboTax Deluxe is $60 for federal returns plus $50 for state returns.
- TurboTax Premier is $90 for federal returns plus $50 for state returns.
- TurboTax Self-employed is $120 for federal returns plus $50 for state returns.
- Expert live advice is extra, from $80 for the basic version to $200 for Self-employed.
TaxSlayer offers several versions of its program at various price points:
- It offers a free version for both federal and state tax preparation.
- Classic is $17 for federal returns plus $32 for state returns.
- Premium is $37 for federal returns plus $32 for state returns.
- Self-employed is $47 for federal returns plus $32 for state returns.
TaxAct: Unlimited Support via In-App Email in the Paid Versions
TaxAct offers a searchable knowledge base, and all users can get help via email, chat or phone. Paid versions offer unlimited support via in-app email. And you can get unlimited phone support from tax experts and CPAs when you buy one of its Xpert plans.
Customer service reps are available via phone. But these reps are available only for help using the software; they do not provide tax advice.
TurboTax — Searchable Knowledge Base
There is a significant online community allowing users to ask questions of fellow filers. There is also a searchable knowledge base including video tutorials.
On-demand live tax help, including the use of screen shares, is available at an extra cost via TurboTax Live. TurboTax Live offers access to CPAs and tax professionals who can answer real tax questions. Depending upon the complexity of your tax situation, TurboTax Live may or may not be worth the cost.
TaxSlayer — Support via Phone or Email
Customer service is an area where TaxSlayer lags some other tax preparation software programs. It offers support via phone or email, but the customer service reps cannot answer tax questions. However, it offers tax support from experts in its premium packages. This assistance is through email only, not on the phone or online like other brands offer.
App’s Safety & Security
TaxAct offers several features in the sign-in process to verify a user’s identity:
- Complex password requirements
- Authentication via mobile phone, email or Google Authenticator
- Trusted device verification
Additionally, it lets users set security rules, offers a view of sign-in history, and notifies you when anyone uses your Social Security number.
TurboTax touts several security features including:
- Multi-factor authentication
- Touch ID using your fingerprint
- Data encryption
- Login and device history
- Automatic email notifications for any changes made to your account
TaxSlayer offers several layers of security including:
- Multi-layer authentication
- Complex password requirements
- Single-use verification codes sent to mobile phones or email
- User protections including firewalls, SSL encryption and other features
- A dedicated security team
Who Are They Best For?
TaxAct is best for someone looking for a low-cost option and who requires minimal handholding. Those who are filing for a C corporation or nonprofit organization will like the easy access to forms for these entities. It’s also a good option if you’re unsure if you need help from a tax advisor but would like to have the option available while you’re preparing your return.
Additionally, TaxAct offers robust options for receiving your refund including its recently added Marketplace that allows users to apply their refund to gift cards from a number of retailers.
TurboTax is best for those looking for a comprehensive tax program that offers a lot of bells and whistles, as well as access to tax professionals to review your return and answer tax questions. And the ability to import data from other Inuit products such as QuickBooks and Quicken is a plus.
These features make TurboTax a good option for those whose tax situation is a little more complex and who don’t mind paying a little extra for a top-flight program.
TaxSlayer is best for those who are comfortable doing their own taxes and whose situation is not complex. TaxSlayer offers a low-cost platform that doesn’t have all of the features of the other two programs, but it is an effective tax preparation program.
Which Is the Best?
Which service is the best will vary by each user’s needs. Based on our reviews, both TaxAct and TurboTax received overall ratings of 9 out of 10. Of the two, TurboTax has the most robust platform in terms of capabilities and features especially if you already use Inuit products, as TurboTax interfaces with QuickBooks and Quicken. Each of these programs offers the availability of tax professionals for support.
But if your tax situation is simple and you don’t need any additional tax support, TaxSlayer’s cheaper price range is definitely worth considering.