TaxAct vs. TurboTax: Which Is the Best Tax Software?

See how the free versions of TaxAct and TurboTax compare.

Preparing and filing your taxes isn’t usually a pleasant experience — unless you’re expecting to receive a large tax refund. On top of paying a large portion of your income to the government, you’ll most likely have to pay tax preparation fees. If you’re not sure how to prepare your taxes, there are tax services to help you this tax season.

Two of the largest tax-filing software programs, TaxAct and TurboTax, offer free federal and state returns. From the simplest returns to complex filings, both programs can help you through the tax preparation process.

Here’s a comparison of TaxAct versus TurboTax to help you decide which free tax-filing service is best for you.

TaxAct vs. TurboTax
PriceBest for Filers withFeatures
TaxAct Free
  • $0
  • Prices for other TaxAct products start at $9.95
  • Retirement income
  • Earned income credit
  • Child-related expenses
  • Can import 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ returns from TurboTax and H&R Block
  • Unlimited access to last year’s return for 7 years after filing deadline
TurboTax Free Edition
  • $0
  • Prices for other TurboTax products start at $39.99
  • W-2 income
  • Limited interest and dividend income reported on a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV
  • The standard deduction
  • Earned income tax credit
  • Child tax credits
  • Audit support guarantee
  • Access to TurboTax specialists and customers 24/7

How to File Your Taxes Online for Free

TaxAct and TurboTax both promise free tax preparation for filers with simple returns.

TaxAct Free

TaxAct Free is for individuals to file the most basic federal and state returns using the new consolidated Form 1040. In addition, TaxAct Free guarantees that you’ll receive the maximum refund available and that its software is 100 percent accurate. See a review of all the different TaxAct software options to see which is best for you.

Also, TaxAct offers all of its customers — free or paid — a price-lock guarantee. That means once you start filing your taxes with TaxAct, the price of the program you’re using won’t increase. Plus, if you’re not sure if e-filing is the best tax-filing option for you, you can also download TaxAct software.

Maximize Your Deductions: 42 Tax Write-Offs You Don’t Know About

TurboTax Free Edition

TurboTax Free Edition is a free program to file basic federal and state tax returns. To begin the process of filing taxes online, take a photo of your W-2 with a smartphone and upload it to the program. The TurboTax Free Edition covers W-2 income, earned income tax credits (EIC) and child tax credits. Compare the different TurboTax filing options.

TurboTax also guarantees all returns are 100 percent accurate and that you’ll receive the maximum refund possible. Although this is a free service, the offer is subject to change at any time and you must file the return before the offer ends.

Which Tax Software Should You Choose?

TaxAct Free and TurboTax Free Edition offer similar free services. The differences start to appear when you compare the paid upgrades.

TaxAct offers multiple package options that build on TaxAct Free. Packages range from $9.95 for the Basic+ service — ideal for taxpayers with dependents and college expenses — to the Premier+ for $34.95 for filers with investments and rental property. These prices do not include the extra fee to add state taxes.

TurboTax offers a variety of paid options that range from $39.99 for the Deluxe package — TurboTax’s most popular package — to the high-end Self-Employed version for $89.99. Prices vary based on if you want to include state returns or speak to a certified public accountant who will answer questions and complete a final check prior to filing.

TaxAct and TurboTax offer similar services, but the TurboTax upgrades are more expensive. If you file more complex returns but are still looking to save some money, TaxAct might be the better tax program for you.

Learn about which free state tax filing options might be available to you.

More on Filing Taxes

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Taylor Bell contributed to the reporting for this article.