Friend of the blog, Andy Zach, author of Zombie Turkeys reviews the best online tax software.
The following is an unbiased, and unsolicited review of the best DIY tax preparation programs.
Tax Preparation Software Showdown
3 Tax Programs Compared by Zombie Turkeys
Well, no. It’s me, indie author Andy Zach comparing tax preparation software.
After I filed my Federal taxes using TaxAct. for the tenth year, I thought: “I’ve used three tax programs over the years; why don’t I write a blog post on “3 Tax Programs Compared”?
TaxAct vs. TurboTax vs. Credit Karma
I took my Federal tax form and entered the same data in Credit Karma’s new tax program. I have used Credit Karma’s credit reporting service for several years and wanted to try their free tax program this year, comparing it to TaxAct.
Finally, I used TurboTax for over ten years as well! I’ll give you why I switched from it to Tax Act and how both of them stack up to Credit Karma.
Let’s start with the most recent program first: Credit Karma.
The user interface is simpler, compared with TaxAct. There are fewer options visible, but you can find them by clicking on various options. I’m more used to TaxAct, but I’m sure I could get used to Credit Karma, no problem.
Then there’s the advantage of Credit Karma being free. TaxAct costs $14-to $17 per year. As an author, I begrudge every dollar. I wanted to replace TaxAct with Credit Karma.
But the most important thing of all (to me, at least) is getting all the advantages of our existing tax law and producing the maximum return possible.
I was quite chagrined when I had entered the identical data on my three W-2 forms and my state taxes paid, and I got two different deduction amounts from TaxAct and Credit Karma! TaxAct gave me about $30 more in deductions.
I didn’t exhaustively compare the results from the two programs. Once I saw this discrepancy, I lost all faith in Credit Karma. Sometimes free isn’t worth the price.
This is the program I’ve used for over ten years, so I’m happy with it. I have great faith that they are up to date with the latest tax law and tax forms and they lead you through all possible options on income, deductions, and tax credits.
Further, they archive your tax forms and use them from year to year, so you don’t have to re-enter the same data each year. But they do check to see if the data has changed.
They provide you a state income tax form with your federal and here is my first beef: you must pay for your state filing as well as the Federal filing. This is an additional cost ($14-15) I do not take. I’d rather copy the data into the Illinois form myself and file for free.
This leads to my second beef with TaxAct: you can no longer print your tax forms for free. If you haven’t filed your taxes, you must pay to print the forms. I used to be able to print the forms for free, without filing.
Those are my two big complaints. There are other little things I’ll leave off. It’s still the best, in my opinion.
Finally, we have TurboTax. I have nothing against it. I used it for ten years. It was my first tax program. So why did I stop using it?
I kind of resented having to install it each year and pay for it each year, but I saw it as an inevitable cost of doing taxes. Then TaxAct came along.
TaxAct lets me file for free and kept all my data online, allowing me to transfer data from year to year and to compare year to year. I didn’t have to install software anymore!
Since then, the free filing is only under certain circumstances (basically, you must be poor) and I have to pay TaxAct every year. I also found out that TurboTax is also available online.
I’ll keep using TaxAct until they annoy me too much. I’m considering investigating TurboTax. There’s always a cost of transferring from one program to another.
Check them each out for yourself and see what you like better!
Thank You, Andy, for this great post!
“Any tax-related opinions in any part of this document or website (including any links) are not tax advice. The above is a general explanation of tax law and should not be relied upon for your individual circumstances. Tax advice cannot be provided on a general basis and must be specifically tailored for each individual by his or her particular representative. Any user of this website should seek the advice of a competent, independent tax professional regarding that user’s particular circumstances.
In addition, any tax advice given herein (and in any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax penalties or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed therein.”