TaxAct Review 2017

Income Taxes, Personal Taxes, Taxes
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NerdWallet’s rating
 
Recommended for
✔ Frugal DIYers

 
TaxAct’s no-nonsense design will be a turnoff for some, but the cost is lower than many competitors and there’s free email 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.

 

TaxAct
 
 
Start your return at TaxAct's secure website

 

Pros

  • Generally cheaper than similar offerings elsewhere
  • All versions come with unlimited email and phone support
 
Cons

  • Less of a Q&A feel than other packages have
  • Free version is free only if filing a Form 1040A or 1040EZ

↓ Compare TaxAct with others

 
TaxAct’s prices
 
TaxAct’s products are in most cases less 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.

If you have a simple tax situation, TaxAct has a free version that is actually free. (Some providers’ “free” versions do only federal returns for free, meaning you still have to pay to file your state return.) However, the free version is available only to people who qualify to file the 1040EZ or 1040A; folks who have to file a regular 1040 will need to get one of the paid versions. The free version does charge $10 to import last year’s TaxAct return (this is included for paid versions).

Available packages and list prices

 
Free
Federal: $0
State: $0


This option allows you to file a 1040EZ or 1040A and a state return for free, and comes with unlimited email and phone support. You’ll have to pay $10 to import last year’s TaxAct return, though new this year is that you can access up to three years of prior TaxAct returns for free.
Plus
Federal: $30
State: $35


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.
Premium
Federal: $45
State: $35


TaxAct’s highest-end version for online filers has all the features of the Plus version and a bit more, which likely makes this the best package for the self-employed, freelancers or independent contractors.
 

 
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.

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TaxAct’s features and ease of use
 
TaxAct’s interface isn’t fancy, but it works. 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-ux-gif

 
TaxAct has a free mobile app, but it’s basic and meant only for users with the simplest of tax situations. For example, tell it you’re married, filing jointly and have kids, and it tells you you’ll need to move to an online product instead.

Like many other tax packages, help is available throughout the preparation process, though higher-priced competitors do 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.

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Support options with TaxAct
 

Ways to get help

• Searchable knowledge base
• Free support by phone
• Free support by email

TaxAct 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 email support may compensate for that.

Free tax help via phone is a rare find, especially for software at this price point, and during tax season it’s available seven days a week, including into the evenings Monday through Friday.

If you’re using the free version and find you actually need another product, it’s easy to upgrade in the middle of the process.

taxact-help-gif

 
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 support consists of a FAQ page on its website. But customers can buy “audit and inquiry assistance services” 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 runs $50 for Premium users and $40 for Plus and Free filers.
 
Refund options
 
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.

If you’re using a paid version, you have the option of paying for the software out of your refund (if you’re getting one). But beware: There’s a $20 charge to do that.

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How does TaxAct compare?

 

 



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TurboTax


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Start your return
TaxAct’s no-nonsense design will be a turnoff for some, but the cost is lower than many competitors and there’s free email 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.
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 care about a fancy product and aren’t worried about getting audited but want to be able to talk to a human if necessary.

 

Start your return at TaxAct's secure website

 

Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: torem@nerdwallet.com.

Updated Jan. 17, 2017