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      July 4, 2020

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Tax Software

  1. TurboTax
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  3. Tax Slayer
  4. eSmart Tax
  5. Liberty Tax
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TurboTax vs Tax Act

Best Tax Software

To help you find the Best Tax Software, provides you with an in-depth comparison of TurboTax and Tax Act.

To see ALL of our reviews for the Best Tax Software, please Click Here

What's the best tax software for preparing your federal and state returns? In the past, many taxpayers either tried to slog through the paperwork on their own or spent huge amounts of money to hire a professional tax preparer. Of course, in today's digital age, it should come as no surprise that more than 53 million people use tax software to prepare and file their returns online.

One of the most compelling reasons to use a reputable tax software package is because of the constant changes to tax law. Figuring out what exemptions you qualify for, what income requires you to pay additional taxes, and how to claim any deductions can be challenging and also have a major impact on whether you get a big refund - or owe big time!

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Tax Software Reviews

4.5 stars


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Free Edition Federal/State - $0

Deluxe Federal - $59.99

Premier Federal - $79.99

Self-Employed Federal - $119.99

State - $44.99 per state filed

Desktop/Downloadable software option also available

Additional fees for having return reviewed by CPAs

When it comes to tax software, few companies have the brand recognition as TurboTax - and for good reason. Every year, their tax prep program adds new, useful features, and their interface is still the easiest to use by far, with simple questions like "Did you own a home last year?" and friendly coaching-style guidance if you have any tricky situations in your taxpayer information.

While TurboTax still offers their tax software as a desktop (CD-ROM) and downloadable program, the majority of its newer users are relying on their online platform to file their Federal and State tax returns. You can find out pricing details about the first two versions on the TurboTax site, and here's what you need to know about their extremely well-rounded, fully-featured online tax software:

  • Free Edition - you'll pay exactly zero dollars to file your Federal AND State returns if your tax situation is simple. Import your W-2, answer simple questions about your life, and TurboTax guarantees they'll get you the maximum refund for which you are eligible. You qualify for this free option if you have limited interest and dividend income, you claim the standard deduction, and your only credits are the EIC and child tax.
  • Deluxe - for $59.99, you can access the first tier of TurboTax's paid tax software programs. If you have mortgage and property tax deductions but not much in the way of investments or rental properties, this plan will meet your needs.
  • Premier - you'll want the $79.99 plan if you have investments (stocks, real estate, etc.) or if you need to account for any cryptocurrency transactions. TurboTax has the great feature of allowing you to automatically import your investment income from thousands of financial institutions.
  • Self-Employed - $119.99 is a solid investment in tax prep software if you're a contractor, freelancer or small business owner. This package gives you free QuickBooks Self-Employed access for tracking expenses, mileage, and jobs. You'll also get help finding industry-specific deductions, a personalized audit assessment, and 1:1 help from self-employment experts.
  • Military Discount - use your military W-2 to verify your rank and get TurboTax for free or at a reduced rate. E1-E5 get free federal and state filing up to the Deluxe level, while E6 and above get a discount of at least $5 on all TurboTax Federal tax software packages.

Although TurboTax doesn't have any in-person offices you can visit to get help with your tax return, they do offer TurboTax Live. This add-on lets you talk to an EA or CPA to get unlimited help and tax advice for the whole year, and reviews of your return. If you're new to preparing your return and want the peace of mind that comes from having your questions answered by a professional, this is a much more affordable option than having one prepare your tax return from start to finish. Fees for the Live service range from $79.99 to $199.99, depending on which package level you select.

Another big plus when you choose TurboTax is their Audit Support Guarantee. If the IRS contacts you about a potential audit, you can get free one-on-one guidance from an experienced tax professional, answers to your questions, and assistance on what to expect and how to prepare.

And, when it comes to free tools, TurboTax is hard to beat. We particularly like Turbo, their complimentary service for all users (even if you don't buy their tax software) that tracks your financial health as reflected by your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and verified income. You can get free financial advice based on your goals, keep all of your credit and loan details in one place, and get suggestions for savings on any interest you're paying. You'll find Turbo and many other resources like tax calculators and expense estimators at the bottom of the main TurboTax website.

You may be wondering why TurboTax comes in second place in our review, given their long-standing reputation on the market and extremely user-friendly interface. This tax software is edged out by H&R Block for two main reasons: cost and in-person help.

Across all package levels, TurboTax is always more expensive by at least $10, including a spendy $44.99 for preparing and filing a State return. And, when you add in the option for having your return reviewed by a live tax professional, TurboTax will probably cost you up to $50 more than their top competition.

And, even though TurboTax has fantastic Live options, some people feel more reassured by knowing that they can go to a local office if they get stuck while preparing their tax return, or if they get an audit notification from the IRS.

TurboTax is still one of the industry's best options for tax software. The platform is well-regarded by customers as the easiest to use for preparing tax returns, and the options offered make it the most well-rounded in the marketplace. We have nothing but love for TurboTax, and recommend it as an excellent choice for tax preparation for most consumers.

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2 stars
Tax Act


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Simple Federal - FREE

Basic Federal - $14.95

Deluxe+ Federal - $47.95

Premier+ Federal - $57.95

Self-Employed Federal - $77.95

State Filing - $19.95 to $39.95 per state filed

Desktop software also available for purchase

At first glance, TaxAct looks like a reasonable option for tax software. While they don't offer the in-person help options that some of their competitors have, TaxAct does have a wide variety of tax prep programs that includes online and downloadable software.

Since most people opt for the online plans, here's what you can expect from TaxAct's packages:

  • Free - includes simple Federal e-filing, even if you have retirement income. Ideal for single or married people who only have W2 income. This does not allow you to import prior years' tax returns.
  • Basic+ - for $14.95, you can access the tax prep software best for filers with college expenses, child tax credits, and education expenses. You have the ability to import the prior year's return (as a PDF), and you get unlimited tax specialist support and Federal e-filing.
  • Deluxe+ - with all the features of Free and Basic, plus itemized deductions and credits like HSAs, mortgage/student loan interest, and adoption credits, Deluxe+ costs $47.95.
  • Premier+ - if you have investments, rental properties, and/or foreign bank accounts, you'll need this plan for $57.95. You get everything included in the first three packages, along with prioritized customer support that includes the ability to use screen sharing to resolve problems.
  • Self-Employed+ - if you are self-employed, an independent contractor or sole proprietor, this package helps you make sure to get the maximum tax benefit for your situation. All of the features through Premier+ are included, and TaxAct's Deduction Maximizer is a tool that can ensure that you get every deduction to which you may be entitled. This package costs $77.95

If you need to file State tax returns as well, you'll pay anywhere from $19.95 to $39.95 per state, depending on which Federal package you select.

One of the features of TaxAct that we like is the ability to use the software interface to work on any section of your return that you prefer. For example, if you want to enter details in the Life Events (Marriage/Divorce, Health Insurance, etc.) section first, then switch over to Dependents, you can. As you work through the various questions that apply to your situation, TaxAct has pop-ups that will explain to you exactly what forms you may need in order to claim deductions and receive credits, prove your income, and so forth.

TaxAct checks all of your work and lets you know if there are any potential problems with information you've entered. Red Alerts indicate that you have incomplete or inconsistent details that might prevent you from filing or trigger inquiries from the IRS. Yellow Alerts happen for potential problems or for items that you may need to take extra steps to complete your return. Finally, Green Alerts let you know where you may have opportunities for tax savings, but aren't items that would prevent you from submitting your tax return.

When it comes to refunds, TaxAct lets you choose between a check, direct deposit, or an American Express Serve Debit Account. You can also get up to a $100 bonus if you opt to get part of your refund on a gift card from popular retailers like Nike, AMC Theaters, and Groupon.

So, after all of these positive aspects of TaxAct, why would we rank them so low when compared with other tax software programs? It's all because of recent customer experiences. At the time of this review, we found dozens of complaints from the preceding month that described horrible experiences when trying to get help from TaxAct's customer support. People said that unless they tried to place their call within the first few minutes of the business day, they got messages saying that the phone lines were "full" for the rest of the day. Similar frustrations were reported with trying to get help via TaxAct's email support; some people said they waited 8 days to get a response via phone and email together, and got nothing.

It was also disappointing to see that customers who used TaxAct for nearly a decade felt that they had to abandon the platform because of all of the problems they encountered in the most recent tax year. Why would a new customer want to sign up for this service if long-term customers are switching to a different tax prep service?

We hope to see more positive comments in the future, but for now we recommend that you look to one of the better-rated tax programs in our evaluation - especially if you are new to doing your own taxes, so that you'll have access to the customer support you may need.

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Continued from above

Tax software can save you a lot of time and stress by staying up-to-date on each change made by the IRS, so that your return is accurate to the penny. But with all of the different options out there, how can you decide which tax software is right for you?

Here are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Complexity of Your Return. If you're a small business owner who owns a home and has numerous investments, your return will be much more complicated than a single person with no dependents and renting an apartment. Make sure the tax software you choose fits your situation.
  • Format. Do you need or prefer to have a tax prep program that can be downloaded to a laptop rather than used 100% online? If your internet connection is limited, you may want a program that lets you work offline all or most of the time, with options to file your return on paper as well as via e-file.
  • Live Help. If you're unsure of yourself when putting together your return, you may feel more reassured if you choose a company that offers help in real time from tax professionals. Some services give you that assistance via phone and/or live chat, while others maintain brick-and-mortar offices throughout the US that you can visit in person. Be sure to check if these services are included with the purchase of the tax software or if you'll have to pay extra for them.
  • Cost. What will you spend to prepare and file your tax return? Is it comparable to what you'd pay for tax software on a competitor site? Most services don't include state preparation and filing in their federal tax prep packages, so look for those additional fees if that applies to your situation. has reviewed and ranked the best Tax Software available today. We hope this information helps you choose the right package for your needs, so that you can file your returns accurately and easily!

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