PROS / TaxAct is low-priced, even for those who need to itemize their deductions. 1040EZ/A filers can e-file federal and state returns for free using this online tax software.
CONS / We received inconsistent refund amounts among the multiple testers using this tax program.
VERDICT / If you are confident preparing your own returns, TaxAct is one of the lowest-priced options. In addition, unlimited telephone support is available at a lower-than-average price.
Editor's Note: The personal tax deadline for the 2015 tax season was April 18, 2016. You can still use this service to file your taxes late or file an amendment online; however, we will not update this review until the start of the 2016 tax season in January 2017.
Free, mostly free and nearly free are the first three things you will notice about TaxAct, and once you use this program, you'll also learn that it is simple to use and capable of creating an accurate return. As such, it receives our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award for online tax software. TaxAct was founded in 1998 and since then, it has been creating tax products for individuals, businesses and tax professionals. To ensure you get the best price, it offers a price-lock guarantee that locks in your filing fee to the price it is when you create your return, regardless of when you actually e-file it.
TaxAct offers a free version for 1040EZ and 1040A filers, which includes state e-filing and email support. For 1040EZ federal e-filers who want additional support, they can upgrade to the basic version and receive the ability to import previous years and telephone support. 1040 filers can create a return using the plus version that manages itemized deductions, investment income and mortgage interest. The premium version creates returns for those with freelance or self-employment income. In the past, TaxAct offered free filing for active military members, but we did not see that offering this year.
The best online tax software helps you create an accurate return for the most reasonable price. By far, TaxAct is the best-priced tax software. It is free for 1040EZ filers and only $14.99 to e-file a 1040 with itemized deductions. State e-filing is also priced low, starting at $9.99.
In terms of creating an accurate return, TaxAct is capable. However, as with all tax software, no program will create accurate return if the filer does not enter the correct information. So, it pays to slow down and double check your numbers as you enter them into the program, making sure, too, that you're entering them in the right field. It also benefits you to utilize the included educational material.
Ease of Use
While TaxAct provides volumes of helpful information to filers, our testers found the wealth of information overwhelming. Some felt like they were "bombarded" with information, which slowed them down. Most testers wanted the information to be simple to find but only if and when they needed it.
One issue we experienced with this tax software was that even with pre-supplied numbers and tax information, our testers came up with different refund amounts for their federal returns. We ran controlled tests so all of our testers should have arrived at the same refund amount; TaxAct wasn't able to guide all of our testers to the correct numbers.
Though our testers mentioned that they felt the tax software overwhelmed them with too much information, this volume of information could be helpful for inexperienced filers. The software includes a full page of tips, pop-up information boxes, life-event buttons and tax terminology definitions.
Once you are comfortable with the software, you can easily find the information you need. One feature our testers liked was that when the program detected an error, it allowed you to fix it right away rather than having to backtrack to fix the problem. One slight drawback, however, reported by some testers, was the amount of scrolling required. The easiest tax software utilizes short sections that are simple to navigate through.
Help & Support
Although we found the software simple to use and rarely consulted the help topics, adequate information is available if you need it. TaxAct publishes numerous searchable tax articles on its website. You can also contact the company by email or phone for additional support. This tax preparation service also offers audit assistance; however, the assistance is in the form of links to common articles explaining common types of IRS notices as opposed to a human advocate.
TaxAct received mixed reviews this year from our testers. However, it has become a reliable alternative to TurboTax for many filers. It is low-priced and capable of creating correct returns, even if you have scant experience preparing your own tax returns.