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TaxAct Review 2020

Jan. 16, 2020
Income Taxes, Personal Taxes, Taxes
At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

TaxAct has been working overtime to compete against bigger players in the tax software world, and this year proves TaxAct is indeed a contender, offering quality online software that generally costs less than TurboTax or H&R Block.

The interface may not look as slick, but when you get down to it, the data-entry process is generally similar to most of the competition and there are tools to help you along. After all, what some would call plain others might call more efficient. And TaxAct’s prices are hard to ignore.


 

FREE

 

DELUXE+

 

PREMIER+

 

SELF-EMPLOYED+

 

Quick facts

  • Generally less expensive than similar TurboTax and H&R Block options.
  • Human support available, though not always as robust as some competitors.
  • Audit coverage costs extra.
Start your return on TaxAct's website
 

↓ Compare TaxAct with other software

 

FREE

 

DELUXE+

 

PREMIER+

 

SELF-EMPLOYED+

 

Quick facts

  • Generally less expensive than similar TurboTax and H&R Block options.
  • Human support available, though not always as robust as some competitors.
  • Audit coverage costs extra.
Start your return on TaxAct's website
 

↓ Compare TaxAct with other software

 

FREE

 

DELUXE+

 

PREMIER+

 

SELF-EMPLOYED+

 

Quick facts

  • Generally less expensive than similar TurboTax and H&R Block options.
  • Human support available, though not always as robust as some competitors.
  • Audit coverage costs extra.
Start your return on TaxAct's website
 
 

↓ Compare TaxAct with other software


TaxAct’s prices

TaxAct’s products are generally less expensive than similar products from TurboTax and H&R Block. And price is an important factor, 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 offers a free version that lets you file Form 1040 but not schedules 1, 2 or 3. Those schedules are key in the process of reporting things such as business income, alimony, deductible student loan interest, certain retirement contributions, alternative minimum tax, the credit for dependent care expenses, the Lifetime Learning Credit or the Saver’s Credit.

That means if you plan to itemize, were a landlord, freelanced or ran a small business, or had any other situations that require filing one of these separate schedules, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version.

Available packages and list prices

FREE

• Federal: $0
• State: $0

This option allows you to file a 1040 and a state return for free, but you can’t itemize or file schedules 1-3. Generally, it works only for people who don’t plan to claim any deductions or credits other than the standard deduction, the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit.
DELUXE+

• Federal: $29.95
• State: $39.95

This version lets you itemize and claim several other tax deductions and tax credits. It also comes with unlimited email or phone support from tax specialists. If you’re an investor, landlord, or filing a Schedule C (for freelancers or small-business owners), you’ll need to upgrade.
PREMIER+

• Federal: $39.95
• State: $39.95

If you need to report investments or rental properties, this is the package for you (it supports schedules D and E). You’ll also get priority support with a dedicated phone line, screen-share capabilities and some in-app chat support.
SELF-EMPLOYED+

• Federal: $74.95
• State: $39.95

TaxAct’s highest-end version for online filers is for freelancers and the self-employed. It comes with unlimited tax and tech support via phone, screen-share and chat, plus a tool for maximizing business deductions.

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 TaxAct’s site. TaxAct also offers desktop software, where your return doesn’t reside in the cloud, but it’s not part of our review.


TaxAct’s ease of use

What it looks like

TaxAct may not be as flashy as some competitors’ products, but that’s OK — when it comes to tax software, function can outweigh form. You’re able to skip around fairly easily, and as with most software packages, a banner running down the side keeps track of where you are in the process.

Handy tools

TaxAct offers most of your standard options, such as importing last year’s returns, a W-2 import and a donation assistant (for the paid packages), as well as some planning tools and calculators. You can import 1099s. The Self-Employed+ package looks for tax breaks specific to your line of work.

Like many other tax packages, help is available throughout the preparation process, but some other competitors seem to have more robust in-line help.

Where you can use it

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.


TaxAct’s support options

Here’s a look at the various ways you can find answers and get guidance when filing your return with TaxAct.

Ways to get help

  • General guidance: Searchable knowledge base.
  • Tech support: Free tech support by email, chat or phone for all.
  • One-on-one tax help: Unlimited tax support via phone and in-app email with paid versions.
  • Notable: Dedicated phone line, screen-sharing and limited in-app chat for Premier + and Self-Employed+.

TaxAct offers tech support via the typical channels and tax support via phone and in-app email for paid users. It also offers an interesting screen-share option for its Premier+ and Self-Employed+ users: It’s not a face-to-face video connection; rather, it lets the user and the support agent see each other’s screens, including cursor moves and clicks. The company says the support agent can’t see entry fields containing password or payment information.

The tax pro you get may not be a certified public accountant. TaxAct says its tax specialists are people who have prepared taxes before, have taken and completed tax classes or have taken a company tax certification course; they all also received 80 to 100 hours of in-house training, according to the company. They are supervised by an enrolled agent.

And TaxAct’s tax specialists don’t provide tax advice (they won’t tell you whether you should take a particular deduction or how you can cut your bill, for example). They do provide “tax support” by helping you understand what forms you may need and where to put information on forms.

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 audit defense from a partner company called Protection Plus for $49.95. Coverage includes three years of audit services for this year’s return, and TaxAct says the product will guide you through the audit process, handle IRS and state correspondence on your behalf, help with denied tax credits as well as tax debt, and provide tax fraud assistance.

If you’re getting a refund

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 $49.95 charge to do that.


How TaxAct compares

TurboTax



Read full review



Read full review



Read full review

Pricing

On the higher end




Ease of use

Q&A user flow is one of the best




Support options

Live video help from a tax pro, online FAQs


 

Pricing

On the higher end




Ease of use

Clear and helpful interface




Support options

Live video help from a tax pro, online FAQs, 11,000 locations


 

Pricing

Good value pick




Ease of use

Simpler, less focus on design




Support options

Screen sharing, online FAQs, phone and chat


 
Compare more software

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 obsess about frills and aren’t worried about getting audited but want a little human help if necessary.

Start your return on TaxAct's website

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