TaxSlayer's pricing model sets it apart: The company charges according to the level of support you want, rather than according to a software package’s capabilities. In other words, the cheapest paid package handles all the same tax situations and forms that the most expensive package handles — what changes is how much help you can get.
Translation: If you’re a confident tax filer and don’t need a lot of support, you could save a lot of money with TaxSlayer.
Price is a huge advantage for TaxSlayer. People who need advanced tax software, which can run $100 or more elsewhere, can especially benefit from the price difference, particularly when adding a state return. You also might prefer TaxSlayer if you hate that bait-and-switch feeling people often experience when they get halfway through their tax returns and find out they have to upgrade because they need to fill out certain tax forms.
What you get from TaxSlayer's free version
TaxSlayer offers a free version that lets you file a Form 1040, but you can’t itemize or file various other schedules, which means it probably won’t work for you if you plan to do things such as deduct mortgage interest, report business or freelance income, or report stock sales or income from a rental property.
And TaxSlayer imposes other requirements: Your taxable income must be under $100,000, you have to file as single or joint married (no head of household filers), and you cannot claim dependents or the Earned Income Tax Credit. Most people will probably need to get one of the paid versions.
Available packages and list prices
• Federal: $0 • State: $0
This option allows you to file a 1040 and a state return for free, but only if you have a very simple tax situation: your taxable income is under $100,000, you don’t claim dependents, you don’t itemize, you don’t have investments, rental income or a business, and you don’t take the earned income tax credit.
• Federal: $24.95 • State: $39.95
This package works for virtually everybody: itemizers, landlords, freelancers and so on, because TaxSlayer’s paid packages vary by support offered rather than by tax situation. The federal part of this package is free for active-duty military.
• Federal: $44.95 • State: $39.95
This is the Classic version but with more help available: priority phone and email support, audit assistance, unlimited access to tax professionals and priority tech support via chat.
• Federal: $54.95 • State: $39.95
Comes with access to tax pros who specialize in self-employment, plus more guidance and reminders about things such as estimated tax payments and 1099s.
One note about prices: Providers frequently change them. We’ll keep updating this review, but you can verify the latest price by clicking through to TaxSlayer's site. TaxSlayer doesn't offer desktop software, so if you don't want your return to reside in the cloud, you should consider another provider.
TaxSlayer's ease of use
What it looks like
TaxSlayer’s interface looks like other, more expensive versions on the market. There’s an interview process, but you can skip around pretty easily if you need to. A banner on the side keeps track of how far along you are.
Embedded "learn more" links appear frequently to offer tips and explanations, and the on-screen help button does a decent job of laying out all the available support options.
You can switch from another provider: TaxSlayer imports last year’s return from another provider, but only if it’s a PDF, and you can only bring over your 1040 (and not the supporting forms and schedules that may go with it).
Auto-import certain tax documents: You can import your W-2 information directly into your return, which is especially helpful if you have multiple W-2s. However, you cannot upload 1099s or 1098s from providers or photos.
Donation calculator: Unlike competitors, there’s no tool to help you calculate the deduction value of items you donate to charity.
Platform mobility: Because the software is online, you can log in from other devices if you’re working on your return here and there. There is a mobile app available.
TaxSlayer's support options
Here’s a look at the various ways you can find answers and get guidance when filing your return with TaxSlayer.
Ways to get help
General guidance: Searchable knowledge base.
Tech support: Free support by email or phone. Live chat available with Premium and Self-Employed packages.
One-on-one tax help: Access to on-demand tax help (written) from tax professionals for Premium and Self-Employed packages.
Again, TaxSlayer’s paid packages vary by support level, not functionality. Notable is that although phone and email tech support are free, the more valuable kind of help — tax help — is free only for Premium and Self-Employed users. That service is called Ask a Tax Pro, and users submit their questions through their TaxSlayer accounts; it’s not an on-screen experience like some other providers offer. The tax pro contacts them within one business day via phone or email.
TaxSlayer says its tax pros "are highly qualified individuals with extensive knowledge in both the American tax code and TaxSlayer’s software. Our tax pros are IRS-certified with advanced experience in tax law, return preparation, and the tax industry." Self-Employed package users get access to tax pros who specialize in self-employment.
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.
TaxSlayer’s Premium and Self-Employed packages come with free audit assistance (users of other versions can buy it for $29), which helps you prepare for an audit but it won’t represent you in front of the IRS. The coverage applies for three years from when your return is accepted. Users can also buy SecurelyID, an identity protection package, for $39.99. It comes bundled with the audit-defense product for $44.
If you're getting a refund
No matter how you file, you can choose to receive your refund several ways:
A direct deposit to a bank account is the the fastest option. You can also have it loaded onto a Visa Green Dot Bank prepaid debit card (if you’re getting a refund on your state taxes, see if your state offers a prepaid card option as well) or sent as 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.
You have the option of paying for the software out of your refund. But there’s a $39 charge to do that.
How does TaxSlayer compare?
Pricing: $60 to $120, plus state costs.
Free version? Yes.
Pricing: $44.95 to $79.95, plus state costs.
Free version? Yes.
Promotion: Get 25% off federal and state filing costs.
Pricing: $49.99 to $109.99, plus state costs.
Free version? Yes.
The bottom line
TaxSlayer may not have the name recognition of behemoth brands like TurboTax and H&R Block, but it offers attractive and usable software at great price points. However, if meaningful real-time access to a tax pro is important to you, other competitors might appeal more.