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2nd Story Software TaxAct
What TaxAct does best is offer advice. It's affiliated with J.K. Lasser, a prominent publisher of tax guides, and the site's links and tidbits from the J.K. Lasser help/FAQ database are obvious, abundant, and genuinely helpful.
In many instances the site explained the implications of my answers right up front without making me seek out the information. This kept things moving forward, whereas some competitors sent me on tangential research missions. Mini-alerts warned of errors along the way, so I didn't have to wait for the big error-check at the end.
I liked the site's intuitive navigation features, and I was a huge fan of the tabs across the top, which reveal menus and submenus that let users zero in on specific input screens quickly. However, the site's overall tendency to ask just one question per page rather than letting users answer several at once is a big drawback; the setup resulted in a lot of clicking and waiting, but at least I got to see the immediate results of my answers on the federal and state refund tickers.
TaxAct allows users to import W-2 information from Paylocity or W-2 eXpress if their employers are affiliated with those sites. TaxAct doesn't import 1099 information directly from brokerage firms or financial institutions, but it does support 1099 data imports from the subscription-based investor site GainsKeeper. Everybody else will have to key everything in. The TaxAct Web-based service does not even support data imports from TaxAct desktop software.
I appreciated that TaxAct noticed the obviously fake Social Security number (123-45-6789) I used, reassuring me that the site does some analysis. TaxAct also saw that my Social Security and Medicare withholding taxes were not the correct percentage of wages (which are 6.2 percent and 1.45 percent of gross wages, respectively). But the site was not helpful in determining the fair market value (and thus the amount of my deduction) for donated goods.
Some users will be pleased about TaxAct's support for e-filing in more than one state (for an extra $13.95), although the page dedicated just to explaining which permutations of part-year-resident filing requirements result in your having to file by hand illustrates how the complex interaction of state and federal laws can convolute simple ideas.
Overall, though, for the price--$16.95 including one state--TaxAct is the best value of the tax sites I evaluated.
2nd Story Software TaxAct
The best value; users get more than they pay for but will have to spend a little more time.
- Advice was prominent and helpful
- Good features for planners
- Often asks just one question per page
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