TaxSlayer is a great software for anyone that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles that other tax software programs offer. There’s a free version for simple returns and for military members. Plus, there’s plenty of support for other versions.
- Low-cost tax filing
- Simple platform
- Free state filing
- Military members
- Customer service
We all have to do our taxes. Every year. And especially in a year where social distancing guidelines still apply, you’re more likely to want to do them on your own.
TaxSlayer has skyrocketed up the ranks as one of the best (and most affordable) options in the past couple of years. They’ve made significant enhancements for 2021, too.
What is TaxSlayer?
TaxSlayer was created in 1998 back when the company used to offer traditional tax filing services. Today, with over 130 employees and headquartered in Augusta, Georgia, TaxSlayer is one of the most affordable and easy-to-use tax planning services. Facilitating millions of tax returns every year, TaxSlayer is rapidly becoming one of the most popular tax preparers in the industry.
With good user experience and innovation being at the core of TaxSlayer’s service delivery, the company promises great software and reliable technical support to its customers.
Regardless of the package you choose, TaxSlayer is remarkably flexible. The program lets you file the required forms with very little help. If you prefer, wizard mode gives you more hands-on advice. You can also use the wizard only for the trickier parts.
More critical, TaxSlayer outshines many other competitor programs with accuracy, which is why they guarantee unlimited refunds if you’re hit with a state or federal interest or penalty charge due to TaxSlayer’s software errors in calculations.
How TaxSlayer works
TaxSlayer is like most other online tax preparation software in that it walks you through your return, step-by-step. You have the option to use their wizard tool, which will help you respond to questions if you aren’t sure what to say.
I personally found TaxSlayer’s interface to be less annoying, cluttered, and in-your-face than some of the others (such as TurboTax). This is good for some, but not for others who may want a ton of extra information right at their fingertips.
I like to think TaxSlayer allows you to take the wheel and helps you when you need it, versus force-feeding you information.
Signing up for TaxSlayer was super easy. It took me all of ten seconds to get registered and into my account. From the home page, just click “Start for Free”:
Then say whether you’ve used TaxSlayer in the past:
Enter your name, email, and password, then create your account:
And, boom! You’re in:
From there, you can get started filing your taxes.
Pricing, plans, and features
TaxSlayer has four primary plans to choose from, as shown in the image above. It also offers a totally-free Military package for filers on active duty who have an employer identification number related to the department of defense or military. The free military version is essentially the Classic package offered for free.
If you’re a new client, you will have an option to choose your package once you start the filing process. The program will prompt you to upgrade if you attempt to do anything that is not included in your current plan. The final pricing is often set once you’re done with your e-filing, so plan accordingly.
Each package offered by TaxSlayer gives you the option of either using the guided wizard-style filing where the system guides you through the tax filing process step-by-step or a self-guided option where you choose the type of forms to complete. You can bounce back and forth between both modules, which is a useful option if you know what you’re doing but want some help from other people.
Now let’s break down each of the main plans offered by TaxSlayer
1. Simply Free
This plan offers you a free first state return and free federal return. If you need an additional state return where necessary, it will also be covered. Before 2015, the free plan was sufficient for most tax situations of pretty much any complexity, even cases that have itemized deductions, losses from a property sale, or capital gains and small business issues.
However, at the moment, the Simply Free option is only suitable for people who primarily earn money from regular employment. It might, however, not be appropriate for small business owners, solopreneurs, freelancers, and those earning foreign income.
And the Simply Free plan lacks many features supported by expensive plans. So it might not be suitable for tax-filing novices or filers who want to file their returns smoothly and quickly. This plan also includes:
- Prior-year PDF importing. You can import previous-year tax returns from other tax filing programs which are save in PDF format. You can also keep your current tax returns in PDF format.
- Deduction finder. This module prompts you to find and enter all deductions where applicable. This ensures that you don’t miss any chance to save.
- Free phone and email support. You will get complimentary email and phone support during tax season. Email support is much more readily available than phone support due to the increasing number of customers.
This package will cost you $17.95 for a federal return filing and $36.95 for every state return. The plan comes with support for major IRS forms which means it can handle all types of complex tax situations – including rental property owners, investors, and small business owners.
The plan also includes functions and features not included in the free package. So if you’re looking for small and fast tax prep, this is probably your best option. The Classic package contains all the features in the free package, plus:
- Prior-year importing and comparisons. You filed your returns last year using TaxSlayer, this package allows you to import tax data from it. So as you file your current year return, TaxSlayer will show you the relevant entries such as deductions, credits, and income from the previous years. This allows you to compare and see if you’re accurately filling out the entries in your current year’s filing.
- W-2 importing. This plan allows you to import W-2s in PDF.
- Maximum refund guarantee. You get a maximum refund guarantee. So should any errors in calculation arise because of using TaxSlayer, you will get a full refund of your tax preparation fees. They also boast the highest guarantee in the industry.
- Refund advance loans. If you’re a classic or premium filer, you get the refund advance loan. You get up to $1,000 in as little as two days. This service comes at no charge, and your principle won’t accrue any interest.
The premium plan costs $37.95 for filing your federal return and $36.95 for filing each state return. It comes with added support features that are much more robust compared to lower-priced packages.
So this is definitely the best choice for newbie filers or those who don’t have the knowledge or confidence to navigate complicated tax situations on their own.
The premium package comes with all the features in the lower packages, plus:
- Live chat support. You get access to on-site live chat that is operational during the intensive tax season. TaxSlayer is usually operational during phone hours, that’s from 9 am–9 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am–5 pm Saturday, and 12 pm–5 pm Sunday, EST. The hours will change as the tax season advances.
- Priority email and phone support. You also get priority support for called-in questions and emailed questions. All your communications will be pushed ahead of the lower-priced plans. This reduces the wait times by a great deal of time.
- Ask a tax professional. If you have questions, you can ask the in-house tax professionals at TaxSlayer for free. You might not always get an instant answer, in which case you will call in and leave your question, and they will promise to call you back within 24 to 48 hours. This option comes in handy if you encounter a complex issue you can’t resolve on your own or using the TaxSlayer’s wizards. TaxSlayer, however, insists that all the information and answers they provide are often general and shouldn’t be taken as tax advice.
- Federal audit assistance. The premium package comes with free federal audit assistance which TaxSlayer claims it’s worth $29. This is, however, free for three years from the time of filing. Note that this does not include support issues relating to schedule K or C filings.
The Self-Employed plan will cost you $47.95 to file federal returns and $36.95 to file each state return. It has even more impressive support features than the premium plan – they (metaphorically) hold your hand and offer added support for solopreneurs and self-employed filers.
This package includes all that’s included in the Premium package, plus:
- Access to self-employment tax pros. The company has tax professionals for the self-employed. So if you have questions relating to Schedule C tax filing or any doubts about business tax deductions you qualify for, they will offer the help.
- Self-employment tax reminders and tips. With this plan, you get tips and reminders for the self-employed, so you don’t have to go hunting for help from online forums and the help database.
Other additional features available in all packages include:
- Pay preparation fees with your refund.
- Linkage to the IRS refund tracker.
- Refund calculator.
- Mobile apps access.
- Knowledge base.
My experience using TaxSlayer
As I showed you above, getting signed up and into the TaxSlayer system was a breeze. The signup process was simple and easy. TaxSlayer makes it very intuitive for you to get going right away. This was honestly one of the best signup processes I’ve ever done (with any type of product).
I also found their options and layout very clean. For example, check out their income section:
Even for the cheapest version, I found this to be pretty robust. Check out all those forms and schedules! This is a tax nerd’s dream.
Another thing I really liked was the simple wizard tool included. A product like TurboTax will hold your hand a lot more, but with TaxSlayer, you simply click the button and the wizard will ask you a series of questions to determine how you should respond.
Watch as I figure out how to file from a marital status perspective:
The “My Account” tab was also helpful, allowing me to access (if I had them in there) my prior year’s returns, my current return, and quickly modify my personal information. Once again, the interface was clean and easy to use:
Who is TaxSlayer best for
TaxSlayer is a great product that can help most people file their taxes quickly and efficiently. Here are those who will benefit most:
Those who want an uncomplicated experience
If you want to do your taxes in an uncomplicated way (as most of us do), you will like TaxSlayer. Its interface is clean and easy to use, and they have dramatically improved navigation and usability for this year.
Those who want to save money
If you want to save money, TaxSlayer’s pricing is extremely competitive. As I noted earlier, they blow most of their competitors out of the water with pricing. Additionally, they didn’t change prices from last year, and it’s still a great value.
Those who want to use their phones
Some of us don’t want to sit down at our computers and do taxes. Maybe you want to do your taxes with your mobile phone in smaller spurts of time. That’s fine because TaxSlayer has a newly-redesigned mobile app that makes the tax-filing experience simple.
Who shouldn’t use TaxSlayer?
TaxSlayer isn’t for everyone. Here is who probably won’t benefit from this software:
Those who have complex tax situations
TaxSlayer can handle anything thrown at it, but those with complex tax situations might want to seek the advice of an accountant. For example, if you run a large corporation, have multiple rental properties, deal with off-shore investments, or anything else that’s not super-common, you might find it to be a better experience being able to work directly with an accountant instead of a self-guided software.
Those who just want their taxes done for them
You will have to do some work with TaxSlayer. Unlike dropping your taxes off at an accountant’s office, TaxSlayer does require you to go through the steps and enter all the information yourself. Many of us don’t have the time (or desire) to do our taxes – self-guided or not. So if you don’t want to spend the time punching in your information and filing on your own, look elsewhere.
Pros & Cons
- Ability to file your state return for free — Many tax softwares require that you pay for your state return, with TaxSlayer, you can file your state return for free when you use the SimplyFree version.
- The platform is slick and creates a good user experience — While it's not the most sophisticated, TaxSlayer is still easy to use.
- Helpful tools — Tools offered, such as the Tax Refund Calculator, are very helpful.
- The cost of state filing isn’t too expensive — The cost to file your federal and state return for free with the free version.
- Great customer service — Customer support is responsive and friendly.
- Poor email support — Email support can take a long time to hear back (up to two days).
- Not as great as competitors — The blog and knowledge base content isn’t as deep as competitors.
- The Free version is limited — While there is a free version, unless your return is incredibly simple, you'll need to pay.
- Can’t download the software (if you’re old-school) — TaxSlayer is all online, so if you like to download your software you'll need to look elsewhere.
- No support for all version — You can’t get live chat support with all versions.
TaxSlayer vs. their competitors
TaxSlayer has some serious competition in the online tax software space. Still, they remain incredibly competitive on their pricing and features. Here’s a table to break down some of the differences with their top competitors:
TaxSlayer TurboTax H&R Block TaxAct
Free version Yes Yes Yes Yes
Other pricing tiers* $17.95; $37.95; $47.95 $39; $69; $89 $44.95; $64.95; $79.95 $24.95; $34.95; $64.95
Import return from competitors Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customer support Email, chat, phone 24/7 live support Live chat & phone support Email or phone
Refund tracking Yes Yes Yes Yes
*Federal filing; rounded to the nearest dollar for comparison purposes
For a long time, TurboTax has been the leader in the tax software market. It’s definitely not going to be your cheapest option, yet it’s still the most popular. In terms of value, TurboTax offers a ton of features and a streamlined approach that most other tax software just can’t match up with.
TurboTax also helps solve the issue of more complex tax situations by offering detailed advice on just about everything. And if you have used TurboTax in the past, it saves your complete history from previous years. Most people will find this helpful to be able to carry over their information, especially if not a lot changes.
If you’re self-employed, you’ll also like TurboTax for its Expense Finder. Expense Finder scans your business bank accounts to look for possible deductions that can lower your tax bill. Anything it finds will be automatically categorized. And if you’re a QuickBooks user (another Intuit product), you can easily import your business transactions from there. And on the personal finance front, if you use Quicken for budgets and to manage your personal finances, TurboTax can easily draw information from there as well.
I find TurboTax to be the best fit for those with more intricate tax situations, a large number of investments, rental properties, and other more uncommon use-cases. If you’re willing to pay a bit more, the software can be worth it, as its clean interface makes it simple to go through each step of your taxes, bit-by-bit.
H&R Block is another good option for those looking to file online, but they also have a massive office footprint with over 12,000 locations across the country. So if you wanted to get your taxes done in person, you could. You’ll notice that their pricing is a bit cheaper than TurboTax.
And like most other tax software, H&R Block has a plan dedicated to small business owners. H&R Block is probably closer to TaxSlayer than TurboTax, too. Its design and features are geared toward those who have more common tax situations.
For instance, if you do not have investment income and you own a house, you can get away with their Deluxe version. The Premium version, on the other hand, will solve things like investment income and self-employment expenses. Their support is fairly strong, as well. One thing I like is the ability to chat with a tax expert for free (I personally hate calling). Also, you can purchase the add-on Tax Pro Review to have a trained professional check your work (highly recommended for self-employed or freelancers).
And if you’re moving from another tax software, you can import your previous year’s tax returns with ease (with the exception of the free version, which does not allow this).
Many people consider TaxAct to simply be one of the “cheap options” in the tax software game. And for their online products, their pricing is fairly low. Even though their pricing is lower, the quality of the product isn’t. And to prove it, TaxAct offers an Accuracy Guarantee. This ensures your tax return is 100% accurate and that you’re getting the maximum refund possible.
Like other software I’ve mentioned, you can quickly import your tax returns from previous years – but only from H&R Block or TurboTax. Additionally, TaxAct allows you to access up to seven years of prior tax returns.
They offer both chat and phone support, too. And if you have specific questions about your return, you can connect with an IRS enrolled agent or CPA to help walk you through the process if you’re confused or need support.
TaxAct is a lower-cost competitor but stacks up pretty well in terms of features and support.
Few people enjoy the preparation and filing of taxes. In fact, not everyone has a cozy relationship with the IRS or state revenue authorities. While TaxSlayer has some flaws, it does offer features for you to file your taxes faster, more conveniently, and at one of the lowest costs in the industry.
So if you’ve been struggling with other higher-priced but complicated programs, it might be time to give TaxSlayer a roll of the dice.