TaxAct Review: Here’s the Lowdown on This Low-Cost Tax Preparer

Woman sits a table doing taxes.
Aileen Perilla/ The Penny Hoarder

Taxes: Can’t evade them (legally); can’t do them unaided (without a headache). 

Even with the carrot of a refund check dangling in front of us, most of us hate to file our taxes. In fact, in one 2016 WalletHub study, 13% of people said they’d rather spend a night in jail than do their taxes themselves. 

Jail, folks. 

Fortunately, there’s a significantly less-terrible third option: Using an online tax filing service to ease the burden without paying personal-accountant-level dollars.

But of the many available digital tax filing options, which is the best?

To ensure you don’t have to spend even more time worrying about your taxes than necessary, we’ve reviewed three of the most popular digital filing platforms: TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxAct.

You’ve found your way to the TaxAct part of the program. So without further delay, let’s talk about what you need to know about it.

FROM THE TAXES FORUM

How Does TaxAct Work?

Like TurboTax and H&R Block, TaxAct offers DIY online tax preparation software that helps you file your taxes neatly, completely and accurately. Even if you’re a tax whiz, it can be useful to have a guide; these services scan hundreds of credits and deductions to ensure you get the biggest and best refund (or lowest tax bill) possible. 

Unlike the better-known products, though, 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. (Which is to say, there’s no upgraded edition with live CPA help — though at some TaxAct tiers, access to live help is built in.)

Here are the tiers of TaxAct digital preparation and their prices, current as of January 2020. These prices are subject to change over the course of the tax season.

Free

If you’re a “simple filer,” you can take advantage of free federal and state filing with TaxAct’s most basic product. This tier covers W-2 income, dependent deductions, Earned Income and other childcare-related tax credits, educational expenses for current students and retirement income. And yes, it’s real-deal free, so long as your taxes really are that simple.

Deluxe+

TaxAct’s next level product, 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 — and also grants you access to telephonic help from a live tax specialist. 

Deluxe+ service starts at $29.95 with a $39.95 charge for each state filed.

Premier+

At the Premier+ level, TaxAct covers all the basics from the Deluxe+ version as well as adding in options for investors, people earning royalties or K-1 income, rental property owners and foreign bank account holders. Along with telephone access to a tax specialist, you’ll also be able to share your screen live with your guide, and your support will be prioritized.

The Premier+ tier costs $39.95 with an additional charge of $39.95 per each state filed.

Self Employed+

If you’re self-employed, you already know you’re going to be paying more on your taxes than the average bear — and that may mean you need more support in filling out your return accurately.

Self Employed+ TaxAct 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 with live tax specialists including screen sharing and telephone conversations.

This level costs $74.95, plus $49.95 per state return.

Basic 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 them — including information 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. It may seem like a small thing, but for college students with a lot on their plates already, even a little bit of stress relief is a big deal.

$100K Accuracy, Satisfaction and Maximum Refund Guarantees

TaxAct is confident in its software’s abilities to meet your tax needs, and it backs up that confidence with several guarantees. For instance, 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.

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. Refunds are not available, however, after you print or e-file your return.

Mobile Apps for Apple and Android

TaxAct offers mobile apps for both Android and Apple users, though they don’t enjoy the same high ratings 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 so as to never see an out-of-pocket cost. There is, however, an additional fee for this service: $17.99 if you’re receiving your refund by direct deposit or $9.99 if you’re receiving it on a PayPower card. (This is on top of any applicable TaxAct or filing fees.)

Unlike TurboTax and H&R Block, TaxAct does not offer a tax refund advance to regular consumers, though one is available at the professional level.

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TaxAct: Pros and Cons

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

Pros

  • TaxAct offers the most affordable DIY online filing option of the three services we’ve reviewed, and although it doesn’t have a souped-up “live” range of products, live help is built into some tiers at lower prices than its competitors.
  • Although TaxAct offers fewer options than TurboTax, the homepage feels more navigable — and a clickable questionnaire still makes it easy to figure out which level is right for your tax needs.
  • TaxAct offers a useful FAFSA guidance worksheet to make tax time a little less stressful for students.

Cons

  • TaxAct offers less robust, personalized audit support than TurboTax or H&R Block, though you are covered by its $100,000 guarantee.
  • TaxAct doesn’t offer a refund advance, so you’ll have to wait to receive your refund on the government’s schedule.

Who is TaxAct Best For?

If you’re after the very best bang for your tax filing 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 with some of its low-cost options. 

And 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 for really free, if you’re eligible, through the IRS portal. This service is available to filers who earned $69,000 or less, and the page also links to free fillable forms for earners at all levels.

Still comparison shopping? Check out our reviews of TurboTax and H&R Block before you make a decision.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.