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Which is better for online tax filing?

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TaxSlayer and TurboTax offer popular online tax preparation tools. TurboTax is a market leader but it isn’t necessarily the best option.

After doing my personal taxes with Credit Karma, TurboTax, and H&R Block over the last few years, I decided I’d try TaxSlayer as a low-cost option that I’ve seen recommended when browsing online forums on taxes and other financial topics. I like to do my taxes twice so that the results match regardless of what tax software I use.

Here’s a comparison of TurboTax and TaxSlayer on costs, user experience and refund or tax bill outcomes.

Tax prep companies often offer discounts early in the season. This article does not contain any discounts. For the most current offers, visit the company website.

Which is better TurboTax, or TaxSlayer

TurboTax is the better choice if your goal is to complete your taxes as efficiently and quickly as possible. TaxSlayer works well for those who are happy to do some manual entry in order save money on taxes.

I expected to have a similar experience before I tried both platforms. TurboTax saved me a lot of time than TaxSlayer, thanks to its document upload capabilities and connections to banks and investment firms.

TurboTax was superior enough to me that I would pay more than TaxSlayer. TaxSlayer is the winner if cost is your main concern.

TurboTax works best for:

 

TaxSlayer is the best for: How does TurboTax work.

TurboTax was my first choice. I’ve personally used this software and have found it to be a great overall experience. I have had some bad experiences with low-level customer support and the less-common parts preparing my tax returns as a small business owner in an S-Corp. I would recommend it to friends and family without hesitation.

Intuit is a global leader in financial software and TurboTax is part of their portfolio. Intuit also holds Mint, QuickBooks, and other products. It processed more than 40,000,000 tax returns in 2020, for the 2019 tax season.

TurboTax Live is a new feature that TurboTax has added to its regular tax prep. TurboTax Live allows you to upgrade to gain live access to a tax professional, or to hand over your tax return completely to someone else. It’s not cheap, but the sleek online interface and reputation of TurboTax Live are unbeatable.

How does TaxSlayer function?

Reddit was where I first saw serious recommendations for TaxSlayer. Many well-informed people explained that they switched to TaxSlayer recently to save money over higher-priced competitors. They all agreed that the experience was nearly flawless.

The tax code is the exact same regardless of which software or accountant you use. This means that you should get a result within a few bucks (it could vary slightly due to rounding) regardless where you do your taxes. TaxSlayer is less expensive than most other programs for the exact same thing.

Although it is a smaller tax software provider that Intuit, it has been around longer than 50 years and has a lot of experience in handling tax returns. TaxSlayer has completed more than 10,000,000 tax returns in 2020.

TurboTax vs. taxSlayer: costs & fees

The bottom line is that TaxSlayer costs less than TurboTax. There is no other way.

TurboTax and TaxSlayer both offer paid and free versions, depending on your tax situation. Based on my income (I’m self-employed), I need to jump straight to the top of their pricing chart.

Below are the prices for each company’s DIY service: 

For those with simple needs, both products are available in free versions. You may need to upgrade to higher-end versions if you want to add investments, homeownership, self-employment, side-hustle income, or rental properties.

These and other tax programs offer a great opportunity to test them for free, without having to pay anything until you file. You could even try both if you are a tax nerd, and not have to pay until you compare your results.

TurboTax vs. TaxSlayer: user experience

TurboTax is clearly the better option. TurboTax is a better option than TaxSlayer because of its user interfaces. TurboTax has a slightly faster navigation and can import data from financial institutions automatically. It also allows for uploading 1099s and other forms.

TurboTax automatically pulled in information from previous years to help me get started. This is an advantage of staying with the software you have used in the past. I checked a few boxes before being directed to the tax process.

TurboTax’s initial process involves entering or changing details about your household and dependents. You can add MAX to your taxes for $60. This will give you priority customer service, audit representation, and other benefits. This was not worth $60 to me, but it could be helpful to others.

TurboTax makes tax forms easy. You have the option of either importing from a bank that supports it, uploading 1099 forms to automate processing, or manually entering the details. The process of importing is not always flawless so it’s important to take the time to review your results as the app suggests.

The links provided help information for the tax forms or boxes I was having trouble understanding. TurboTax helped me calculate my previous year’s alternative minimum taxes (AMT).

With TaxSlayer, I started by uploading my prior-year tax return from H&R Block with a simple drag-and-drop. The site eventually gave up on me after two attempts and refused to process my return. This meant that I had to enter all my information again. This was not a great way to start, but it was necessary for a successful tax prep experience.

TaxSlayer features are available to more sophisticated filers. This includes the option to start by choosing the form you want and filling it in instead of following the wizard. I just clicked on the forms I needed to fill in my information. It had a familiar visual layout. Although I had to scroll a bit more on each page to enter my information (Form W-2), it was easy enough.

TurboTax also offers the ability to import 1099s for investment and bank accounts from a wide range of institutions. TurboTax also allows you to upload a 1099. TurboTax will then extract the details. It’s all manual entry at TaxSlayer

Final results: TurboTax vs. taxSlayer

Based on the information I had available when I tried both platforms, my results — aka my tax liability — at TurboTax and TaxSlayer were nearly identical.

As you would expect with any tax software or preparer there is only one right answer for your annual income taxes. Both programs did a good work for me this year, comparing my W-2 income, 1099 form, donation records and any other information I had.

TurboTax may be more helpful for complex tax returns. In terms of results, there isn’t much difference between the two.

Both come with a maximum reimbursement and a 100% accuracy guarantee. As long as everything is entered correctly, you should be able come out even.

Eric Rosenberg

Freelance Writer

Eric Rosenberg is a Ventura-based writer who specializes in technology, travel, and finance. He is a former manager at a bank and a corporate finance and accounting professional. He left his job in 2016 to pursue his online side hustle. He is an avid travel hacker, with extensive knowledge of banking, credit card investing, and other financial topics.
Eric enjoys traveling, exploring the world, learning new craft beers and spending time with his family.
You can connect with him at Personal Profitability or EricRosenberg.com.

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