Saturday, January 31, 2015

TaxSlayer Classic 2015 (Tax Year 2014) Review: PC Magazine

Kathy Yakal for PC Magazine writes:  With 17 years of history under its belt, TaxSlayer competes with the best of breed tax preparation services in terms of the tax issues it covers and the forms and schedules it helps taxpayers prepare. TaxSlayer Classic ($12.95 for federal returns, $14.95 per state) is affordable and offers all the basics when it comes to the tax-interview process, return calculation, navigational controls, and help. But the best personal tax preparation websites, and especially Editors' Choice TaxACT Deluxe$17.95 at TaxACT, have gone beyond the basics. They've polished up their UIs, built more context-sensitive help into the interview process, and they rewrite their content so that it's simple, understandable, and as brief as possible—unless the user wants more. They've developed a professional-yet-friendly tone, and refined their guidance systems. They offer chat and email help, if not full-blown phone support with tax professionals. TaxSlayer has a long way to go before it can compete in these areas.

Similar MechanicsTaxSlayer follows the same functional format as its competitors. It uses a wizard-like question-and-answer format to get the information it needs to complete your tax return, from the 1040 through the major supporting forms and schedules. TaxACT Deluxe and H&R Block Deluxe$29.95 at H&R Block provide the same framework and support, but TurboTax Deluxe lacks the critical Schedules C, D, and E. When you're finished with the tax preparation elements of TaxSlayer Classic, the site lets you print or electronically file your 2014 return.

Tax preparation websites used to let you try the product before signing up for an account (which also allowed you to save your data). TaxSlayer and TurboTax do not. You'll have to supply a user name and password, email address. In fact, the first thing you have to do is supply your Social Security number, which is unusual. You also have the option of importing data from a PDF of last year's return from a competitor. That sounds good, but TaxSlayer Classic's import capabilities do not extend past the most basic personal information on the 1040, and the site does not import financial data from third parties (W-2s, 1099s, etc.) like its competition does.

Like TaxACT Deluxe, TaxSlayer Classic offers a Life Events feature that precedes the preparation process. This provides information about the impact that specific life situations—housing, family, business, etc.—might have on your return. Unlike TaxACT, it offers very little guidance, just a few sentences about filing.

TaxSlayer Classic 2015

TaxSlayer Classic next offers three way to progress through your return. You can select "Guide Me," which walks you through the entirety of the site's countless forms and schedules by presenting a lengthy series of screens, each of which deals with only a small element of the overall return. Every page provides information and/or asks a question or questions, does any needed calculations based on your answers, and deposits the resulting numbers into the appropriate fields on IRS forms and schedules in the background.

When you've completed this interview process, TaxSlayer does a review of your return and alerts you to any errors or omissions. This feature is seriously lacking compared to what's offered by the competition. TaxACT and TurboTax present the errors on separate screens, one by one, and let you fix them, and H&R Block takes you back to the offending page for corrections, then it returns you to the error list. TaxSlayer Classic did send me back to a couple of pages for needed corrections, but it just dumped me there. I had to figure out where to go next myself.

You have two other options for progressing through the site. You can simply select the topics that you know will apply to you and complete those interview sections, an option that everyone offers. Or you can use Quick File, a tool that doesn't work well and really didn't need to be included. You're instructed to enter the names of the forms you need to complete, and a list of options drops down. This approach rarely resulted in matching hits in my tests, and no other site reviewed here operates this way. TaxACT does let you see a list of forms and topics included in the program, as well as tax documents you received. But those tools work in TaxACT, and they're not intended to be a navigational tool.

When you've completed the federal portion, TaxSlayer Classic moves relevant data into your state return and helps you complete it. Finally, you can print your return or file it electronically. Every other site reviewed here works this way. SNIP  The article continues @ PC Magazine, click here to keep reading....


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