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 your federal return and one state return at no cost. However, the free option only supports simple returns with form 1040. If you want to itemize deductions with schedule A (or if you need to use any other forms), you need to upgrade to a paid plan. There are three paid plans that run from $39.99 to $89.99 for federal filing. State filing is always $39.99 per state, with paid plans.
|TurboTax Filing Options|
|TurboTax Free Edition||Federal: Free |
|Best for simple returns using Form 1040; Comes with useful features like easy import, error check, refund explanations, deductions for dependents|
|TurboTax Deluxe||Federal: $39.99 |
|Best for homeowners and for maximizing deductions; Comes with all previous features, plus charitable donations calculator|
|TurboTax Premier||Federal: $59.99 |
|Best for investors and rental property owners; Comes with all previous features, plus focus on investment and rental property income, accurate stock reporting, refinancing deductions|
|TurboTax Self-Employed||Federal: $89.99 |
|Best for self-employed, independent contractors, freelancers, consultants and small business owners; Comes with all previous features, plus access to self-employment tax experts, maximizing business deductions|
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 five electronic filing options from TaxSlayer. The Simply Free option allows you to file simple tax returns 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 $29 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 $37 for a state return and $29 per state return. Most of TaxSlayer’s extra features, like audit support, are only available with the Premium option.
|TaxSlayer Filing Options|
|Simply Free||Federal: Free |
|Best for single and married filers with no dependents; Can file 1040 with limited deductions and credits; Free email and phone tech support|
|Classic||Federal: $17 |
|Best for filers with dependents; Supports all major forms, deductions and credits; Comes with all free features, plus W-2 import, prior year import|
|Premium||Federal: $37 |
|Supports all major forms; Comes with all previous features, plus audit assistance, access to tax professionals, priority support|
|Self-Employed||Federal: $47 |
|Targeted at filers using Schedule C and 1099-MISC; Comes with all previous features plus guide to taxes for the self-employed|
|Ultimate||Federal: $57 |
|Comes with all previous features plus front-of-the-line support, a guide to the new tax laws and three years of complete IRS audit defense and representation|
TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer: Cost
When it comes to cost, there is no question that TaxSlayer is more affordable. You get access to all major forms for $17 (for federal filing) and the most expensive option costs $57. The cheapest option from TurboTax’s costs $39.99 and you need to upgrade to the Self-Employed option ($89.99) to access certain forms.
The big difference in price is because of additional features.
TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer: Features
TaxSlayer is less expensive but that’s largely because it offers fewer features than TurboTax. You basically pay just to get access to the tax forms you need. There are relatively few other extras, like calculators and expense trackers.
TurboTax also has more educational content for filers. All TurboTax options include guidance from an audit expert in case you get audited. That gives you 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 QuickBooks Self-Employed if you use this filing option. This helps you track things like travel and business expenses. TaxSlayer does have a filing options that targets self-employed filers, but it doesn’t offer the same level of special assistance that TurboTax does.
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 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 simple returns. (Price-conscious filers should also consider another budget option, 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 them through the 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.
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