This story is part of , CNET’s coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.
Originally developed for professional tax preparers and accountants, TaxSlayer started offering its software directly to taxpayers in 1998 and has expanded since. Today it offers no-frills tax preparation with a full package of forms and schedules.
It’s an attractive bargain choice: TaxSlayer’s prices are considerably less than other competitors. Its four tiers of tax preparation cover a variety of filing options with additional levels of support. The big exception is its bottom-rung Simply Free tier, which is very restricted. The most expensive tax-filing tier — Self-Employed — comes with email support, live chat and options for help from a self-employment tax pro along the way. All that will cost you less than $85 total, which includes one federal and one state return.
Though TaxSlayer offers a simpler user experience compared to other top brands, its interface will feel familiar for anyone who’s used web-based email. A help link at the top of every page offers a pop-out searchable FAQ panel with links to online or phone support if needed.
The value of TaxSlayer helped rank it our top option for freelancers and self-employed filers in the. However, even if you don’t fall into this category, it may be worth considering TaySlayer for the cost savings alone.
- Cheaper than most online tax software
- Maximum refund and 100% accuracy guarantee
- Assistance online or by phone
- Free filers can’t claim the child tax credit or earned income tax credit
- The interface is not as user-friendly as competitors
- No downloadable tax filing software or in-office filing
Who is TaxSlayer best for?
Taxpayers claiming awho can handle their taxes without help should consider TaxSlayer’s Classic tier, which has a competitive edge over similar online tax preparation services. It covers all IRS forms and schedules — everything from stock sales and cryptocurrency to rental income and the solar energy tax credit. If you end up needing assistance along the way, you can always upgrade to the next Premium tier.
Self-employed individuals also get access to services at a much lower cost than competitors. TaxSlayer’s Self-Employed tier runs $85, cheaper than TurboTax’s ($168) and H&R Block’s ($122) Self-Employed plans. It also includes support from a tax pro with self-employment expertise at no extra cost, instead of an additional $60 ator $110 more at .
Military members get a good deal at TaxSlayer, too. They qualify to file their federal taxes for free, regardless of the service tier. (State returns still cost $37 each, except at the Simply Free level.)
Who should look elsewhere?
Rental owners who sold and bought property in 2021 and want to avoid capital gains will need to look elsewhere. TaxSlayer doesn’t include support for IRS Form 8824, which is necessary for “like-kind” 1031 tax exchanges. If you know that you’ll need a specific form, make sure it’s on.
The Simply Free tier has restrictions that will exclude many taxpayers, so we recommend trying other tax preparation services instead, particularly if youwith the IRS. In addition, if you earned over $100,000 in 2021, you can’t file your taxes for free with TaxSlayer — even with a simple return. And, if you’re new to filing your taxes, you might want a bit more guidance than TaxSlayer currently provides.
What are TaxSlayer’s different products?
TaxSlayer’s online tax preparation services are available in four different tiers: Simply Free, Classic, Premium and Self-Employed. All of the tiers use a question-and-answer system that guides filers through the tax preparation process, While the Simply Free tier functions adequately, its strict limitations will leave most taxpayers wanting more.
The broader Classic tier covers all incomes, credits and deductions for most taxpayers, and the Premium tier offers additional tax preparation support on top of those features. The Self-Employed tier adds specific help and support for business owners, gig workers and freelancers.
Simply Free: Best for low-income W-2 tax filers with no dependents and no deductions
The Simply Free tier costs nothing to file your federal taxes and one state return. If you need to file additional state returns, each one costs $37.
TaxSlayer allows users to prepare returns and print or file them electronically. It supports W-2 incomes, as well as student loan interest and education expenses, but not many other important credits and deductions. But your income can only be limited to wages, tips, taxable interest of $1,500 or less, and unemployment compensation.
Most importantly for working families and lower incomes, TaxSlayer’s Simply Free tier doesn’t include the child tax credit or earned income tax credit.
The Simply Free tier also includes other stringent restrictions:
- Your taxable income must be less than $100,000
- You cannot claim dependents
- Your filing status must be single or married jointly
- You must claim the standard deduction
Simply Free does include basic tax and technical support via email or phone. TaxSlayer promises a response by email within one business day, and also offers free phone support at 706-922-6741 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET.
If you meet the strict requirements and don’t need to claim anything other than education costs, Simply Free will get the job done. But most filers will need to consider one of the paid options.
Classic: Best for most tax filers
TaxSlayer’s Classic tier costs $18 for a federal tax return and $37 for each state return.
The Classic tier includes all of the IRS forms that anyone will need to file their taxes. If you are adding income from a 1099-MISC or 1099-NEC form, TaxSlayer will ask if you want to upgrade to the Self-Employed tier, but it is not required. You can upgrade to the Premium or Self-Employed tiers at any time during the tax filing process.
The Classic tier includes all of the important credits like the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and child care tax credit, as well as all deductions and adjustments to income. If you’re using TaxSlayer for the first time, you can import your prior tax returns, but only PDFs of Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ — not any supplemental forms.
The Classic tier also includes basic email and phone support.
Premium: Best for filers who need additional tax support
The Premium tier of TaxSlayer’s software costs $38 for the federal tax return and $37 for each state return.
TaxSlayer’s Premium tier includes everything in the Classic tier with a variety of add-on support services. You can still access all of the available IRS forms and schedules, add all income types and adjustments and print or e-file your tax return.
Upgrading to Premium adds IRS Audit Assistance for three years, the ability to skip the line for priority email and phone support, live chat and unlimited professional tax advice through the entire tax filing process.
Self-Employed: Best for gig workers, contractors and business owners
TaxSlayer’s Self-Employed tax preparation service costs $48 for a federal tax return and $37 for each state tax return.
The Self-Employed tier takes the extensive support from TaxSlayer’s Premium tier and boosts it with specific advice and support for gig workers, freelancers and small business owners. Along with three years of audit assistance, priority phone and email support and live chat, you’ll get access to a tax professional experienced in self-employed tax issues, though TaxSlayer doesn’t guarantee that you’ll speak directly with a CPA.
You’ll also receive specific guidance with 1099 income and detailed instructions on maximizing work expense deductions on Schedule C. The Self-Employed tier adds quarterly estimated tax payment reminders, a personalized guide to self-employment taxes and year-round tax and income tips for freelancers.
TaxSlayer products, compared
|Those with simple returns||Free||$0||$0|
|Those seeking additional tax support||Premium||$38||$37|
|Freelancers and business owners||Self-Employed||$48||$37|
*Cost is per state return filed
Is TaxSlayer Premium worth the cost?
Most tax filers with uncomplicated situations won’t need the extra help that Premium provides, especially since phone and email support are included with the Simply Free and Classic tiers. Whether or not an upgrade to Premium is worth the cost will be dependent on how experienced you are with doing your own taxes online and how complicated your taxes are.
If you start filing your taxes with the Classic tier and find yourself unable to answer some of the questions, or unsure about which forms you need, you might want to consider the extra $20 for live support. Likewise, if you have significant concerns about getting audited by the IRS, $20 for three years of audit assistance is not a bad deal.
Other notable features
TaxSlayer guarantees a maximum refund and 100% accuracy for all plans. The two highest tiers include three years of IRS audit assistance, support from a tax professional and technical help. For the Self-Employed tier, you get access to a tax pro with tailored experience in self-employed taxes.
This tax software aims to keep its process simple and inexpensive, and therefore lacks some of the extras you’ll get with more expensive competitors. Its level of online reference documentation is also less comprehensive than on TurboTax or H&R Block.
The Tools and Resources page includes aand links out to IRS resources. The page also has helpful articles about extensions, recent tax code changes and information on filing back tax returns for previous years.
You can choose to receive your tax refund from TaxSlayer in a few different ways:
- Direct deposit to your bank account
- Printed check in the mail
- Transfer to a prepaid TaxSlayer Visa debit card issued by Green Dot
TaxSlayer is not advertising any refund advance offers this year. It does let you pay your TaxSlayer tax preparation fees using money from your expected refund, but that File and Go option adds a fee of $39.
Within the tax software itself, TaxSlayer includes a few nifty features that add value. Unfortunately, they’re a bit buried in the interface — way down at the bottom of the left-hand navigation under “Toolbox.”
- Reminder Notes: Create virtual sticky notes to mark certain sections of your tax return for review. Jump easily from note to note to correct or complete certain forms before filing or moving on to the next step.
- Quick File: Instantly find specific forms or schedules by populating a search results box with links as you type.
TaxSlayer offers a solid though not a stylish method for preparing your taxes, although the Simply Free tier is so limited that many filers will not be able to take advantage of it. But if you’re self-employed or a typical tax filer with common deductions and credits, TaxSlayer’s inexpensive yet full-featured tiers deserve a good look.
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