TaxSlayer offers online tax preparation software and products that help customers prepare and electronically file their federal and state tax returns, all from the comfort of their home. And with their iOS and Android app, customers can also file their taxes while on the go, regardless of their device or platform.
In addition to mailing your return, TaxSlayer offers more than one direct deposit option that could help save you time and potential delays. In fact, if you’re in a pinch, their RefundNow service can get you up to $1,000 within 48 hours of filing.
There are perhaps dozens of online tax preparers offering many of the same fundamental services as TaxSlayer. Given the sheer number of options, how can you choose the best company this tax season? Here, we’ll walk you through the process of making a more informed decision, starting with the specific services offered.
Which Services Does TaxSlayer Offer?
Overall, TaxSlayer offers access to four different packages:
Prepare and e-file your federal (form 1040EZ) and state return for free. Information is automatically transferred from your federal to your state paperwork.
Includes easy-to-use forms and menus you can utilize without specialized tax knowledge, a step-by-step direction guide to help maximize your refund, live phone support from a professional agent (email support can take 24-48 hours), and the ability to import a PDF copy of your return.
Everything included in the Simply Free package, in addition to the ability to e-file your 1040EZ form, as well as gain access to all major forms and schedules, and the ability to pull information from your previous year’s return (if filed with TaxSlayer).
Before you e-file, the company will help ensure your return “is processed by the IRS without delay” by checking for errors and missing data.
Everything included in Classic, in addition to their Ask a Tax Pro service, which gives you access to an on-staff IRS-enrolled agent who can help you find a solution to your problem.
You’ll also receive priority support—including access to live chat, prior year comparisons, and audit assistance. Here, a TaxSlayer professional will help you with any questions and resolve the matter as quickly as possible, should the IRS audit a return prepared by them.
Advertised as their most comprehensive package, the self-employed program includes everything found in Premium, as well as the ability to import your W-2s and PDFs from other online tax preparers or services.
How Does TaxSlayer Work?
Functionally, the TaxSlayer system seems to work similarly to much of the competition; you’ll start by choosing your product and then entering a username, email address, and password, and choosing a security question.
Next, you’ll fill in relevant details regarding your filing status, personal information, dependents, and federal and state information. As you move through the process, the system will save your data for access later, with a menu on the left-hand side that provides quick access to the different sections.
TaxSlayer offers a no-nonsense dashboard where filers can move through the process, with Guide Me and Wizard assistance available, if necessary. Credit: TaxSlayer LLC
Unlike some other tax preparation software we’ve used in the past, though, we weren’t able to skip ahead to different sections without completing the previous section.
However, TaxSlayer seems to live up to their promise of making the process as easy and straightforward as possible with several different features.
First, the Guide Me feature does just what it says; it guides you through the tax return process and answers any reporting questions you have along the way. Examples include being uncertain how to enter forms you’ve received, or require guidance that can be provided by asking simple questions.
This feature is available as soon as you start entering details on the Personal Information Filing Status page on the TaxSlayer website. You’ll also continually be asked if you’d like to use the feature as you work through the sections.
Next is the Helpful Video feature, which—when available—can be accessed by clicking on the green play button, which will open a separate page. These videos promise to act as an “online personal tax guide” to walk you through the process of filling out your returns. Note: The website emphasizes that these videos cannot provide tax advice.
You’ll also find several instances where TaxSlayer’s ‘Wizard’ can help provide clarification if you’re unsure about a specific question.
TaxSlayer’s Wizard (Filing Status is shown above) provides additional details about certain topics that help ensure you’re choosing the correct option. Credit: TaxSlayer LLC
Speaking of which, if you’re still unsure about a specific entry after consulting the Wizard (if available), you can place a Reminder Note on the section, which can help you “keep track of all the items you want to double check before filing your return.”
As far as support goes, TaxSlayer provides customers with access to a fairly extensive knowledgebase search tool for articles related to their topic. Customers can also use the search bar under the Help & Support link to find common forms; e.g., “Form 8863 is entered as 8863) or by typing in a specific word or words which identify the form (such as Tuition Fees).”
What Happens After You File with TaxSlayer?
After completing the data entry process and verifying that everything’s correct, most customers will find that they’re either getting money back, or that they owe money.
If You’re Eligible for a Refund
If you find that you overpaid for the previous year, TaxSlayer can help you receive your refund in one of the following ways:
Electronic Mailed Check – File electronically, but receive a mailed check as your refund. Typically takes 18-28 days to receive.
Direct Deposit – File electronically and have your refund sent directly to your checking or savings account. Typically takes 7-21 days to receive.
Direct Deposit Through Civista Bank – Similar to above, but allows you to receive up to $1,000 of your refund within 48 hours, involves no out of pocket expenses, does not constitute a loan, and can usually be completely processed in less than 21 days.
Prepaid Debit Card – This American Express Serve® Card prepaid debit card can help you get your refund up to two days faster, and involves free ATM withdrawals and cash reloads for continued use.
If You Owe the IRS
If you didn’t pay enough in taxes last year, TaxSlayer also provides several options for making payments to the IRS:
Mail Payments – Here, the company will automatically provide a payment voucher if your return shows a balance due, which can be saved as a PDF and/or printed out from within your account, and should also include the relevant mailing address.
Electronic Withdrawal – With this option, payments to the IRS can be electronically withdrawn from your checking or savings account. All you’ll have to do is enter your banking information (routing and account number), which is transmitted to the IRS or state accordingly.
Federal (Only) Payments – According to the TaxSlayer website, “The IRS has several trusted companies that they have approved to process tax payments for them” via credit card, each of whom has “their own percentage rate for figuring a convenience fee for processing your tax payment.”
State (Only) Payments – Similarly, they note that some states allow taxpayers to pay directly through their state website using debit or credit cards, or electronic funds transfer.
Taking a Closer Look at TaxSlayer’s App
Given everything we’ve covered, does TaxSlayer’s mobile app add meaningful functionality or convenience to this process?
TaxSlayer’s iOS and Android app allows customers to prepare their returns in advance, receive notification when it’s time, and then file directly from their smartphone. Credit: Google
Using your paycheck or W-2, TaxSlayer’s iOS and Android Tax Refund Estimator app promises to help you calculate your upcoming refund in advance, which could then help you better understand whether or not you need to make adjustments in your withholdings.
Then, the company will notify you when it’s time to e-file, which you can do right from your phone. Afterward, you can check the status of your return and receive relevant updates and notifications.
How Much Does TaxSlayer Cost?
TaxSlayer’s packages are priced as follows:
- Simply Free: $0 for federal and first state return; $22 for each additional state return
- Classic: $17 for federal only
- Premium: $35 for federal only
- Self-Employed: $55
- Active Duty Military: 50 percent off federal and state returns using the Classic or Premium packages
While TaxSlayer doesn’t provide refunds on returns rejected by the IRS or any state agency, they do offer a Maximum Refund Guarantee that stipulates you’ll “receive the maximum tax refund you are entitled to,” or they’ll refund the applicable purchase price paid.
Customer support can be reached at (706) 922-6741, or via the contact form on their site. Live chat is also available for Premium members.
What Can We Learn From Online TaxSlayer Customer Reviews?
We encountered nearly 70 customer reviews for TaxSlayer on Consumer Affairs, who had cumulatively given the service an average rating of about 1.5 stars.
There, many seemed to appreciate the ease of use and competitive pricing, although complaints revolved around everything from less-than-stellar support and problems with the software to inaccurate returns and filing errors. Many also referenced the company’s 2015 data breach, which earned them a fine from the Federal Trade Commission.
On the other hand, sites like NerdWallet and PC Mag gave TaxSlayer three and four-star ratings, respectively, frequently citing ease of use and competitive pricing. However, NerdWallet recommended you might want to go with another company if you’re worried about being audited, and PC Mag worried that their support could use some more robustness.
Between Google Play and iTunes, we encountered more than 2,700 user reviews, which had cumulatively given the app an average rating of about four stars. Similarly, most appreciated its ease of use and competitive price, while the most common complaint was inaccuracy and bugginess.
From a company perspective, TaxSlayer is based out of Evans, GA and has been in business since 1965. They held an A Better Business Bureau rating, based on one closed complaint, as of 1/8/18, which referenced being forced to pay a $17.99 fee when they thought the service was free.
TaxSlayer vs. TurboTax, TaxAct, FreeTaxUSA, and EZTaxReturn
According to Investopedia, more than half of all tax returns are filed online, so there are a lot of other companies competing for the same consumers as TaxSlayer. When choosing the best option for your needs, where should you start?
This is certainly a nuanced conversation, but here’s some basic advice that could help you start off on the right foot. As always, be sure to consult with a financial professional if you have questions.
What Are Some Must-Have Features?
Investopedia notes that must-have components include the ability for the software to update in real time (e.g., programming updates, tax laws, etc.), help “find missing information and missed deductions and flags items that might trigger an IRS audit,” and advice regarding when to expect your tax refund (along with its up-to-the-minute status).
Free or Paid?
Speaking of features, another big consideration is whether or not you want to pay for the service. As we can see with TaxSlayer above, paying will generally provide access to extra amenities that could represent money well spent (we’ll talk more about this next).
And even if you’ve already decided that you’re willing to pay, you’ll need to decide on a budget that won’t blow the bank, and that will also deliver maximum value.
Online or Offline?
Should you purchase a service that can only be completed online, or is it better to download the software directly to your computer? The Balance’s Shelley Elmblad outlines that, whether referencing ease of installation, convenience, the updates discussed earlier, or data security and backup, online options typically offers a distinct advantage.
The one area she notes this might not be the case is data storage, although she recommends this potential downside could be alleviated by storing information on “your computer hard drive, in an online storage or cloud service like Dropbox, or on removable media such as a USB drive.”
How Does TaxSlayer Stack Up?
Given this core criteria, let’s see how TaxSlayer compares to some of their top competitors:
|Company||Cost||Online / Offline||Core Features|
|TaxSlayer||Free-$55; add’l state returns $22 each||Online||Guide Me/Wizard feature, Video help, Audit support, Live assistance, Track refund, Maximum refund guarantee, App access|
|TurboTax||Free-$54.99; state returns $39 each||Both||Tailored to all levels, Tax deductions/credits search, Automatic legal updates, Unlimited live help, Maximum refund guarantee, App access|
|TaxAct||Free-$76; add’l state returns $37 each||Both||300+ deductions and credits, Prior year import, $100K accuracy guarantee, Maximum refund pledge, Personalized financial assessment|
|FreeTaxUSA||Free-$6.99; state $12.95 each||Online||Maximum refund, 100% accuracy guarantee, Fast email support, Audit assist, Amended returns, Step-by-step guidance|
|EZTaxReturn||$29.95 federal; $19.95 state; $39.95 both||Online||Guided data entry, Daily security scanning, Guaranteed accurate calculations, Audit defense protection, Free U.S. phone and email support; available on desktop, phone, or tablet|
Our Final Thoughts About TaxSlayer
Compared to hiring a CPA, it’s easy to save 75 percent or more when filing your taxes using online or offline software—not to mention the added convenience of filing them at your own pace and schedule, from the comfort of your home.
As we can see from the table above, though, it seems that most online tax software companies provide access to many of the same must-haves, including real-time updates, deduction and credit assistance, refund tracking, and robust data security. Therefore, the ‘right’ option might largely come down to your budget.
Just keep in mind that online tax prep isn’t always perfect, and can often miss eligible deductions or credits. Furthermore, if you’re a college student or a recent grad, the simplicity of your finances means that you often don’t need to hand over money for one of these programs.
But as always, if you have questions about the best software based on your specific circumstances, a free consultation with a professional financial advisor could help you make the most informed decision possible.