If you’re interested in filing your income taxes online, you might have some interest in using TaxSlayer. This software product, available in various versions since 1998, can help most filers easily and efficiently file their tax returns through their easy-to-use online interface. There are several versions of the software available, including a limited-capability free Federal edition and a free Federal and state version for members of the military. TaxSlayer compares favorably with other products we’ve reviewed in terms of performance and comes in near the middle on price. Read on for our full TaxSlayer review.
Unlike most tax preparation software products, TaxSlayer is not available as a downloadable product or one that is offered on disc for installation on your home PC. Instead, all versions of the product are online editions, which may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you view such things. For most users, it’s easy to use and will suit their needs just fine.
There are several different versions of TaxSlayer, so you’ll need to decide which one is best for you.
Free Basic Edition
TaxSlayer is part of the IRS Free File Alliance, so they do offer a very basic free version that will allow you to file your Federal tax return at no charge. If you’re a young twenty something with just a W2 and not deductions, the Free Basic Edition may be a good fit for you, but most filers are going to need something more.
The TaxSlayer Classic Edition is reasonably priced and includes a few features that the Free Basic Edition does not, such as free email and phone support, a step by step guide to deductions, all major schedules, and the ability to pull full tax information for prior years. This is the version that most taxpayers will find to be useful, and it’s quite fairly priced at the current rate of $12.95. Keep in mind that this version is for Federal taxes only; you’ll have to pay extra to file your state return.
The TaxSlayer Premium Edition includes everything in the Classic Edition but also includes the ability to ask questions of professional tax preparers and priority support for any problems you may have. For those who have unusual situations that may require additional help, this version could be beneficial. Like the Classic Edition above, the TaxSlayer Premium Edition covers Federal tax returns only; state returns are extra.
Members of the military may file both state and Federal tax returns for free through the TaxSlayer Military Edition, which also includes free email and phone support, a step by step deduction guide, all major forms and schedules, a real-time refund calculator and state income tax forms for all 50 states.
In addition to the versions listed above, TaxSlayer also has products that will allow you to file amended returns or to print copies of prior years’ returns, provided, of course, that you used TaxSlayer to file them in the first place.
TaxSlayer Pros and Cons
Favorable pricing – Some products can run upwards of $50 and can even approach $100, but TaxSlayer is reasonably priced, and their $12.95 Classic Edition is a bargain. Yes, the state returns do cost extra, but you’ll still pay quite a bit less with TaxSlayer than you will with some competitor’s products.
Guided version – You have the option of allowing the software to “guide” you through the process, including asking you about events in your life that may have changed during the course of the year that might affect your taxes, such as marriage, divorce, a home purchase, business or rental property. This is an optional feature; you may or may not use it as you see fit. For those who are a bit new or uncomfortable at using tax preparation software, this could be a useful feature.
Prior year comparison (not in all versions) – This feature allows you to compare this year’s return with those from previous years, which makes it easy to spot mistakes or to see things you may have overlooked. This information is automatically displayed if you’ve used TaxSlayer before, but you also have the ability to add the information manually if you like.
Audit risk meter – The software automatically looks over your entry to see if there’s anything unusual that might potentially trigger an audit. There’s no way of predicting who will or who won’t be audited, but certain things do increase the likelihood of it, and this useful feature can help you identify potential problem spots.
There aren’t many downsides to this product, but the company has no local offices, such as H&R Block, so you can’t run out and get in-person help if you need it. The features for calculating deductions are not as sophisticated as those in competing products. The software is strictly an online product, so you must be connected to the Internet to use it. That may or may not be a drawback, depending on how you work.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to TaxSlayer is that it cannot possibly know all the ways you could be saving money on your taxes. It’s a software program; it’s not a tool for planning tax strategy. There are hundreds of ways you could be taking advantage of deductions that TaxSlayer would allow you to enter, saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, if only the software knew about them. TaxSlayer will help you file your return, but it can’t help you with things it doesn’t know about.
What you need, in addition to this product, is a tool that will tell you about deductions, alternate methods of calculating expenses, and other useful tax information that will prevent you from spending more than necessary at tax time.
TaxSlayer is a good, affordable product. Just make sure you understand that the small amount of money you pay for it can easily be offset by the hundreds or thousands of dollars in extra taxes you may end up paying because you didn’t take advantage of every deduction that was legally available to you.