TaxAct Review: Here’s the Lowdown on This Low-Cost Tax Preparer – editor@thepennyhoarder.com (The Penny Hoarder Staff)

Even with the possibility of a refund dangling in front of us, most of us hate to file our taxes.

Online tax filing services significantly ease the burden without paying personal-accountant-level dollars. But of the many available tax preparation companies, which is the best?

In this review, we’ll cover TaxAct, one of the lesser-known income-tax filing programs — but a frugal filing option you’ll want to check out.

Here’s what you need to know about TaxAct.

How Does TaxAct Work?

TaxAct offers DIY online tax software that helps you file your tax returns neatly, completely and accurately. Even if you’re a tax whiz, having a guide streamlines the process and could save you time and money. These services scan hundreds of credits and deductions to ensure you get the biggest refund (or lowest tax bill) possible.

Compared with the better-known e-filing products, like H&R Block and TurboTax, TaxAct is pretty scaled down — and thus, more affordable.

Rather than inundating you with options, tools and features, this program is all about getting down to business and getting your taxes done, as quickly and cheaply as possible.

TaxAct offers four pricing tiers based on your tax situation: free, Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed. Here’s everything you need to know about each (current as of January 2021 and subject to change).

Free

If you’re a “simple filer,” you can take advantage of free preparation for federal and state returns with TaxAct’s basic product.

This tier covers W-2 income; tax breaks for dependent deductions, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other child tax credits, education expenses for current students, and retirement income.

Cost: Free to file a federal return, plus $4.95 per state tax return.

Deluxe

TaxAct Deluxe offers everything you get with the free version as well as coverage for itemized deductions, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, student loan interest, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and adoption credits.

This tier also includes help from a live professional over the phone, in case you need a little more personalized guidance.

Cost: Starts at $24.95, plus $44.95 per state return.

Premier

TaxAct Premier covers all the basics from the Deluxe version, plus options for investors, people earning royalties or K-1 income, rental property owners and foreign bank account holders.

In addition to phone support with a tax specialist, you’ll be able to share your screen live with your guide, and your support will be prioritized.

Cost: $34.95, plus $44.95 per state return.

Self Employed

If you’re a freelancer or small business owner, you already know you’re going to be paying more in taxes — and that may mean you need more support to fill out your return accurately.

TaxAct Self Employed customers get everything at the Premier level, as well as the ability to calculate personalized business deductions, calculate depreciation and access year-round planning resources. You’ll also get prioritized support, screen sharing and phone conversations with live tax specialists.

Cost: $64.95, plus $44.95 per state return.

Weighing your options for filing taxes? We’ve got you covered with an overview of all the best tax software.
A woman files her taxes using Tax Act.

Features

All TaxAct customers get access to its suite of basic features, guarantees and goodies. Those include:

Easy Import

No matter who did your taxes last year, TaxAct makes it easy to import your information— including data coming directly from H&R Block or TurboTax.

FAFSA Guidance

While TaxAct might be simpler than its more expensive cousins in most ways, it’s the only one of the three that offers a FAFSA guidance worksheet.

Accuracy Guarantee

TaxAct is confident in its ability to meet your tax needs, and it backs up that confidence with several guarantees: $100K Accuracy, Satisfaction and Maximum Refund.

If an error means you get a smaller refund or larger tax bill than you should have, the company will reimburse you for your trouble up to $100,000, as well as refund your TaxAct fees.

Compared with the better-known e-filing products, like H&R Block and TurboTax, TaxAct is pretty scaled down — and thus, more affordable.

This $100K guarantee extends to those who are audited after filing with TaxAct. You can submit “reasonable,” documented, audit-related expenses, and the company will reimburse you, again, up to $100,000.

Finally, if you’re not totally satisfied with your TaxAct product for any reason, you can discontinue using it before completing your return and paying the fee. You can’t get a refund after you’ve printed or e-filed your return.

Mobile App for Apple and Android

TaxAct offers mobile apps for Android and iOS, though they’re not as highly rated as the sleek versions from H&R Block and TurboTax.

Pay-With-My-Refund Option

Eligible filers can pay their TaxAct filing fees with a portion of their refunds to avoid an out-of-pocket cost.

You’ll pay an additional fee for this service: $17.99 if you’re receiving your refund payment by direct deposit or $9.99 if you’re receiving it on a PayPower card.

Protection Plus Audit Defense

For TaxAct Professional users (tax pros filing taxes for clients), TaxAct works with Protection Plus to provide audit assistance and tax debt relief services for clients, regardless of where you filed.

Price Lock Guarantee

Most years, TaxAct offers an option to auto-enroll your return before the tax season starts to lock in the lowest price of the season — because prices fluctuate throughout the season and tend to be highest closest to Tax Day.

You can also nab that low price by paying for the product early in the season, even if you’re not ready to file yet.

Fees

TaxAct pricing is somewhat simpler than competitors, which means you’re less likely to be surprised — but you have less choice to customize. To prepare and file your tax returns through TaxAct, you’ll pay a fee for the filing program, plus additional fees for state filing.

Unlike H&R Block and TurboTax, you can’t pay to upgrade to live tax pro help. Various levels of live help are included with each tier.

  • Product fee: Free to $64.95, depending on tier.
  • State filing fees: $4.95 or $44.95 per state return, depending on tier.
A W-2 is photographed with a succulent.

TaxAct: Pros and Cons

What makes TaxAct stand out — in good and bad ways? Here are some of its benefits and drawbacks:

Pros

  • Affordable: For filers with more complicated taxes, TaxAct is less expensive than most competitors, including for live help from a tax pro.
  • Ease of use: TaxAct’s website is easy to navigate, and a clickable questionnaire makes it easy to figure out which product is right for you based on your tax information.
  • FAFSA help: TaxAct offers a useful FAFSA guidance worksheet to make tax time a little less stressful for students.

Cons

    • No personalized audit support: TaxAct offers less robust, personalized audit support than TurboTax or H&R Block, though you are covered by its $100,000 guarantee.
    • No refund advance: You’ll have to wait to receive your refund on the government’s schedule.
    • State filing is pricy: For most filers, TaxAct’s state filing fees are higher than competitors’, and it doesn’t let you file state taxes for free through its free tier, as competitors do.
    • Less customizable: You don’t have the option to upgrade to an edition with live CPA help, though that’s available in some tiers. You have to choose the tier that fits your tax situation and offers the level of live help you need, which could mean paying for features you don’t need.

Who is TaxAct Best For?

If you’re after the very best bang for your buck, TaxAct is a hard act to beat. It’s the most affordable of the popular online options, and you even get access to live help at a relatively low cost.

If you’re looking for a tax filing platform that’s easy to navigate while still offering all you need to get the job done, TaxAct may just be the pared-down servicer you’re looking for.

Remember, you can always file federal taxes for free, if you’re eligible, through the IRS Free File portal. This service is available to filers who earned $72,000 or less (for tax year 2020), and the page also links to free fillable tax forms for earners at all levels.

Still comparison shopping? We’ve reviewed these other popular online tax programs: TurboTax and H&R Block.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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