Want to do your own taxes, but need a little help? There’s no shortage of tax prep software available for a variety of situations. Tax prep software can take you step-by-step through the process.
Two popular software packages are TurboTax and FreeTaxUSA. Both tax prep packages offer you the chance to do your own taxes, with free editions as well as paid features.
TurboTax covers more situations than its competitor, and is known for its customer service and trustworthiness. Additionally, TurboTax is often hailed for its feature-rich and intuitive platform
FreeTaxUSA also has a user-friendly interface and is thorough. Additionally, it has a much lower price point. As long as you don’t have an unduly complicated tax situation, and you don’t need access to the same level of customer service, there’s a good chance that FreeTaxUSA will be sufficient for your needs.
Here’s what you need to know about TurboTax vs FreeTaxUSA.
TurboTax vs FreeTaxUSA Overview:
|TurboTax||Free||Simple tax returns only|
*For simple tax returns only. Not all taxpayers qualify
|$0 Federal, $0 State|
|TurboTax||Deluxe||Homeowners and filers wanting to maximize deductions and credits||$59 Federal, $59 State|
|TurboTax||Premium||Those who have investments, rental properties, or are self-employed||$89 Federal, $59 State|
|TurboTax Live||Basic, Deluxe, and Premium||Filers wanting unlimited guidance and help from a tax expert||$0 - $209 Federal, $64 State|
|FreeTaxUSA||Basic||Students, beginners||$0 Federal, $14.99 State|
|FreeTaxUSA||Premium||Homeowners, those who have an HSA, those who qualify for the EIC||$0 Federal, $14.99 State|
|FreeTaxUSA||Self-Employed||Freelancers, small businesses, and contractors||$0 Federal, $14.99 State|
Prices are up-to-date as of January 24, 2020.
TurboTax vs FreeTaxUSA: Ease of Use
Both TurboTax and FreeTaxUSA are easy to use. FreeTaxUSA has fewer bells and whistles, though. Plus, with FreeTaxUSA, you pretty much have to go in order of the tax form. No skipping around. It works best if you’re ready to sit down and finish your taxes in one sitting. The interface is clean and easy to read and simple to use, even if it doesn’t take you through step by step.
On the other hand, TurboTax is known for its feature-rich platform that does a lot of hand-holding. It’s possible to upload forms as you get them, and work on different areas of your tax return. TurboTax also has an easy-to-follow question format that almost feels like you’re sitting down with a tax preparer to get a feel for your situation. With TurboTax, you can start with one version and if you realize you have a more complicated tax situation, you can upgrade to another version. You aren’t charged until you’re ready to file your taxes.
Related: Compare the 7 Best Tax Return Software Programs
TurboTax vs FreeTaxUSA: Audit Help
TurboTax and FreeTaxUSA both offer DIY audit support, meaning you get help learning how to respond to the IRS. However, FreeTaxUSA only offers its Audit Assist product if you pay for the Deluxe version. TurboTax has a more robust version with its third-party service called MAX.
If you’re not afraid of being audited, and if you think you can handle most correspondence with the IRS on your own, the lower-cost FreeTaxUSA Deluxe version can provide you with what you need to handle the situation. However, if you’re worried about an audit and want maximum protection and help, paying for the TurboTax add-on at the time you file can give you greater peace of mind.
TurboTax vs FreeTaxUSA: Customer Service
In general, the customer service options available through FreeTaxUSA are fairly limited. You get free access to the customer support page, and if you pay for the Deluxe version, you can get chat support or use the searchable Q&A database. However, direct customer support isn’t very accessible, so if you’re looking for a great deal of help, you’re not likely to find it with FreeTaxUSA.
On the other hand, TurboTax offers extensive customer service options, including access to a searchable online database, email, and phone. For an additional fee, you can also get help with tax questions, by accessing a tax professional. TurboTax also offers help with TurboTax Live, an additional service that allows screen sharing with a professional who can walk you through your situation.
When it comes time to file, you’re on your own with FreeTaxUSA. You’ll pay your fee and submit, and that’s it. However, TurboTax gives you the option of paying to have a tax professional review your return and then sign it and file it for you. If you want an extra set of eyes to take a look, TurboTax is the better option.
TurboTax vs FreeTaxUSA: Pricing
This is where FreeTaxUSA really shines. While you can get the free version, even for more complex tax situations, anything extra you do comes with additional costs. State filings, amending your tax return, and priority customer support all come with extra costs when you get the free version. However, if you opt for the Deluxe version, you can get most of those services included, although you still have to pay to file a state return.
Related: Get the Cheapest Tax Software
If you get the Deluxe version of FreeTaxUSA and file a state return, you can get the whole thing for around $15 if you don’t add any other services. That’s a pretty good deal.
TurboTax is one of the priciest tax prep software products on the market. There are several versions, and the free version is only available to those with the simplest of tax situations. If you get the Deluxe version, which is the next step up from free, you’re looking at a minimum of $59 to file your federal return and $59 to file one state tax return.
If you want to add TurboTax Live to your product, its going to cost even more, but you do get access to live help from tax professionals—something that’s not even an option when you use FreeTaxUSA. If you get TurboTax Live for Self-Employed and add a state return, you’ll pay well over $200.
However, even with that pricing, TurboTax still might cost less than hiring a CPA to do your taxes.
Related: Top TurboTax Alternatives
TurboTax vs FreeTaxUSA: Bottom Line
In the end, which product you choose depends on your tax needs and how much you’re willing to pay.
FreeTaxUSA is much cheaper, but in many ways, you get what you pay for. FreeTaxUSA is fine for confident filers who are reasonably sure they can handle most of their taxes on their own, with only a little guidance. There aren’t a lot of extras and features, so if you’re looking for something that’s almost like having a tax professional walking you through it, FreeTaxUSA probably won’t do the trick.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to pay more for access to help and features, TurboTax can be a great choice and covers a wider variety of complicated situations. Plus, you can pay to get access to dedicated audit help. The more complex your situation, the more likely you are to be audited, so this feature is excellent for your peace of mind.
Carefully consider how confident you are about filing, and what extra help might be worth to you. Then you can make a better decision about whether to use TurboTax or FreeTaxUSA.