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TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer

With the new year starting, it’s just about the time to file your federal tax return. But there’s no need to get stressed out. Tax filing services are making it easier than ever to file your taxes. You will need to choose between those filing service though. So in this article, let’s compare two of the largest tax filers: TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer.

A Quick Look at TurboTax

TurboTax developed its tax software in the mid-1980s. The company was soon purchased by Intuit, which has led to some of its popularity. Intuit also makes an accounting software called Quickbooks, which millions of companies use to handle their books. But TurboTax stands on its own. It offers a user-friendly design and straightforward, step-by-step guidance.

TurboTax has a free filing option that allows you to file a federal return and one state return at no cost. However, the free option only supports forms 1040EZ and 1040A. If you want to itemize deductions or if you are filing with any other forms, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan. There are four paid plans that run from $39.99 to $149.99 for federal filing. State filing is always $36.99 per state. You can see the pricing for all filing options in the table below.

TurboTax Filing Options
Filing Option Costs Features
TurboTax Absolute Zero Federal: Free
State: Free
Best for new filers and simple tax returns. Supports forms 1040EZ and 1040A.
TurboTax Deluxe Federal: $39.99
State: $36.99
Best option for maximizing your deductions. Includes all Absolute Zero features plus additional software.
TurboTax Premier Federal: $59.99
State: $36.99
Best for investors and rental property owners. Includes all Deluxe features plus focus on investment and rental property income, accurate stock reporting, refinancing deductions
TurboTax Self-Employed Federal: $89.99
State: $36.99
Best for self-employed filers, independent contractors, freelancers and consultants. Includes all Premier features, plus access to self-employment tax experts, maximizing business deductions
TurboTax Live Federal: $149.99
State: $36.99
Best for filers who have complex finances and want expert advice. Includes all Self-Employed features plus access to tax experts

The Deluxe option from TurboTax is enough for most filers. It costs $39.99 for a federal filing. Self-Employed individuals and small business owners may need to upgrade to the Self-Employed option, which costs $89.99 for a federal return.

A Quick Look at TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer started in 1998 and it has achieved success largely because it provides tax filing software at an affordable price.

There are three electronic filing options from TaxSlayer. The Simply Free option allows you to file a 1040EZ for free. Your first state return is also free. If you need to file another form, you will need to upgrade to at least the Classic option, which costs $17 for federal filing and $22 per state return. This option does not include much else in terms of features.

If you’re looking for more features, you can upgrade to the Premium filing option, which costs $35 for a state return and $22 per state return. Most of TaxSlayer’s extra features, like audit support, are only available with the Premium option.

TaxSlayer Filing Options
Filing Option Costs Features
TaxSlayer Simply Free Federal: Free
State: Free
Best simple tax returns. Supports forms 1040EZ. Comes with free email and phone tech support, deduction finder, PDF import
TaxSlayer Classic Federal: $17
State: $22
Supports all major forms. Includes all free features, plus W-2 import, prior year import
TaxSlayer Premium Federal: $35
State: $22
Supports all major forms. Includes all previous features, plus audit assistance, access to tax professionals, priority support

TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer: Cost

TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer

When it comes to cost, there is no question that TaxSlayer is more affordable. The most expensive option from TaxSlayer costs $35 for a federal filing. The cheapest option from TurboTax’s costs $39.99.

There is only one caveat. TaxSlayer’s free filing option only supports form 1040EZ. This form only covers a small number of filers so you will most likely have to upgrade to a more expensive option when you file. The free option from TurboTax supports 1040EZ and 1040A. That still won’t cover all filers, but it covers more.

(If you want to itemize your deductions but your tax situation is still pretty simple, you should consider H&R Block. It allows filers to file Form 1040 with Schedule A for free.)

TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer: Features

TaxSlayer is less expensive but that’s largely because it offers fewer features than TurboTax.

For one, as mentioned in the next section, TurboTax has more educational content for filers. All TurboTax options also include guidance from an audit expert in case you get audited. That gives support for one year and an expert will help you prepare for an audit. The equivalent service from TaxSlayer is only available with the Premium option.

The biggest feature that may sway someone to choose TurboTax over TaxSlayer is the targeted advice for self-employed filers and business owners. This is only available with the more expensive options ($89.99 and up) but you will go through a process built to help freelancers, contractors and small business owners. You also get a year of access to Intuit Quickbooks if you use these filing options. TaxSlayer does not have any filing options built specifically to help self-employed individuals or business owners.

TurboTax Vs. TaxSlayer: User-Friendliness

TaxSlayer generally offers a good user-experience, but there is no question that TurboTax is the more user-friendly of the two – whether you’re talking about mobile or desktop.

TurboTax’s interview-style approach will guide you through the filing process with simple and straightforward questions. There is minimal tax jargon. There are also clear explanations and useful educational content. First-time filers without much tax knowledge will certainly appreciate the TurboTax experience. (Many first-time filers will also be able to file for free with TurboTax.) With TurboTax it’s also easy to upload and attach documents.

TaxSlayer’s experience isn’t quite as smooth. The design isn’t as inviting as TurboTax’s. It doesn’t include the constant encouragement that you get when you file with TurboTax. While TaxSlayer will get you to the same endpoint (filing your taxes) you’re more likely to experience small hiccups along the way.

The Bottom Line

TurboTax Vs. TaxSlayer

TurboTax and TaxSlayer both offer successful tax filing services. The best option for you will depend on your specific situation. If your considering these two services and your primary concern is cost, TaxSlayer is likely your best bet. The exception is if you have a simple tax return. TurboTax’s free option supports 1040A in addition to 1040EZ. (Price-conscious filers should also consider TaxAct.)

If you aren’t just looking for the cheapest option, TurboTax may be the way to go. It offers a simple and straightforward user experience. First-time filers in particular will like how TurboTax guides you through the filing process. Its paid options are relatively expensive, but they are worth the price if you’re a freelancer, contractor or business owner.

Tips for Choosing a Tax-Filing Service

  • When you choose a tax-filing service, it’s always a good idea to shop around. We know that there are a lot of options (and searching takes time), so SmartAsset has put in the work for you to find the best online tax software.
  • If you are considering a tax-filing service, make sure that it offers all the forms you need. That includes having the forms at an affordable price. You don’t want to go with a service that only offers the form you need with its most expensive plan, if another service offers the form in its free plan. Speaking of free, here’s a good look at the best free online tax software.
  • It’s useful to get reviews from friends, but always keep in mind what your level of tax knowledge is. If you have a friend that knows a lot about taxes, she may like a no-frills service that offers little educational content. Meanwhile you may prefer the educational content because you’re still learning how the tax system works. And if you are looking for educational content, you may want to particularly look into TurboTax or H&R Block.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/manop1984, ©iStock.com/Xesai, ©iStock.com/gradyreese

Derek Silva, CEPF® Derek Silva is determined to make personal finance accessible to everyone. He writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, serving as a retirement and credit card expert. Derek is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®). He has a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has spent time as an English language teacher in the Portuguese autonomous region of the Azores. The message Derek hopes people take away from his writing is, “Don’t forget that money is just a tool to help you reach your goals and live the lifestyle you want.”
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