Each option listed here gives you a way to walk through your tax filing virtually, and they all file your taxes for you with the federal and state governments. All have various levels of support and guidance when you are filing your taxes, though. So depending on what you need, one option may serve your needs better than the others.
Editor’s note: Pricing is up to date as of January 26, 2020.
Table of Contents:
Turbotax vs. TaxSlayer vs. Credit Karma Overview:
|TurboTax||$0 - $120 Federal, $0 - $50 State (Additional costs for TurboTax Live)||Filers with complicated taxes or needing guidance|
|TaxSlayer||$0 - $47 Federal, $0 - $39 State||Confident filers needing audit support|
|Credit Karma||$0 Federal, $0 State||Confident filers that don’t need much guidance|
Turbotax vs. TaxSlayer vs. Credit Karma: Features
TurboTax has always been one of the leaders in guided online tax filing, and they have a great reputation and a wonderful online interface. They also have some interesting newer features, including:
- Live CPA guidance: This is obviously a premium service that you’ll have to pay extra for. But if you pay for it, you can live chat with a CPA who can check your taxes and answer your questions before you file.
- Three financial numbers: After your file your taxes, TurboTax gives you access to three key financial numbers–your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and overall income for the tax year. You can get these elsewhere, but it’s helpful to have them all in one place.
Read More: TurboTax Review
This is a very affordable platform that lets you file your state taxes for free if you use its basic service. TaxSlayer has a deduction finder tool that lets you quickly find potential deductions based on your personal and tax information. If you use it multiple years in a row, it will also automatically compare your taxes from year to year, which can give you a good handle on your financial situation.
Read More: TaxSlayer Review
Credit Karma Tax
As with many cheaper tax filing platforms, Credit Karma can save you a ton of money. But it doesn’t have a ton of additional bells and whistles. Still, it features an easy-to-use interface, Audit Defense, and an accuracy guarantee.
With Credit Karma Tax, you can file the most common tax forms, but it doesn’t support multiple state filings, part-year state filings, foreign earned income, or state returns for married people filing separately in community property states. You also can’t do a state filing without a federal filing. And because it only supports the most common forms, it may not cover your specific tax situation.
Read More: Credit Karma Tax Review
Turbotax vs. TaxSlayer vs. Credit Karma: Pricing and Fees
This is an area that will set these options apart the most. Here’s a quick glance at each company’s pricing:
|Free||Simple returns||$0 Federal, $0 State|
|Deluxe||More deductions, including mortgage and property taxes||$60 Federal, $50 State|
|Premier||Stocks, bonds and other investments. Rental property income and expenses.||$90 Federal, $50 State|
|Self-Employed||Personal and small business income and expenses||$120 Federal, $50 State|
|Simply Free||Basic taxes and student taxes||$0 Federal, $0 State|
|Classic||All tax situations except self-employed||$17 Federal, $39 State|
|Premium||Same as classic but with priority support||$37 Federal, $39 State|
|Self-Employed||Personal and self-employed taxes||$47 Federal, $39 State|
|Credit Karma Tax||All tax forms and most tax situations||$0 Federal, $0 State|
Signing up for TurboTax, TaxSlayer, and Credit Karma is very similar. You’ll start an account if you don’t already have one, and you’ll need to verify your email address. With TurboTax and TaxSlayer, you’ll choose your version at the start. But if you end up needing more forms that are covered with your chosen version, you can upgrade while filing your taxes. You don’t pay for the service until you actually file your taxes.
Each of these three options is similar on security. They all use bank-level encryption and the latest security standard, which are provided by the IRS. Legitimate tax filing services are authorized by the IRS, which ensures that they comply with up-to-date security and privacy standards.
If you don’t have a laptop or prefer to work on your taxes on your phone, any of these options could work for you. TaxSlayer and TurboTax both have Apple and Android friendly mobile apps that you can use to file your taxes. However, TaxSlayer’s mobile app only supports the more simple tax return options, so keep that in mind.
Credit Karma Tax doesn’t have its own mobile app, but it has a mobile-friendly website you can use to file your taxes from your phone.
Customer Service and Support
Each of these options offers basic software support in different ways. With Credit Karma Tax, you can reach support via chat or email. And with TaxSlayer, you can get support via email or phone, with priority support available for certain versions of the product. TurboTax support is also available via email and chat.
TaxSlayer’s support can take 24 to 48 hours to respond to emails unless you’re one of those with a priority account. Credit Karma Tax generally has good ratings of its support and customer service, as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that support, in these cases, is really more about the software. Neither TaxSlayer nor Credit Karma Tax employ tax professionals to give you actual tax advice. They can help you with some forms you may struggle with or with software-related issues only. But TurboTax does employ CPAs and other tax professionals who can screenshare with you and give you live advice on your taxes. This just comes at an additional cost.
Pros and Cons
Each of these options has its own pros and cons. Here are the ones to highlight from each:
- Simple interface: TurboTax has a very intuitive interface with lots of guidance along the way, which is great if you have a more complicated tax situation.
- Advice from CPAs: Again, if you need advice from an actual tax professional TurboTax is the way to go. For an additional fee, you can chat virtually with a CPA and get their guidance on your tax situation.
- It’s the most expensive listed: TurboTax is typically one of the most expensive options on the market, especially when compared to the free or budget-friendly options here.
- Cheaper premium editions: With TaxSlayer, you can get premium support and additional access to things like small business tax forms without paying a lot of money. Its premium editions are much cheaper than many of its competitors, which is great if you have a more complicated tax situation.
- Audit defense is also cheaper: The Premium+ and Self-Employed versions of TaxSlayer includes audit defense and support, and it’s still a lot cheaper than other options.
- No tax advice: If you might need advice on your taxes, you can’t get that from TaxSlayer. Their support forums direct individuals to the IRS website or a local tax preparer for actual tax advice.
Credit Karma Tax Pros:
- Free: It doesn’t get any cheaper than this, and Credit Karma is more expansive than the free editions of either of the other options listed here. Even freelancers, contractors, and some small business owners can use Credit Karma Tax to file their state and federal taxes for free.
Credit Karma Tax Cons:
- Not as many forms supported: With TurboTax and TaxSlayer, you can file almost any non-business-related tax form as long as you pay for it. With Credit Karma Tax, you get access to only the most typical forms and simple business forms. If you have to file more atypical taxes, you may be out of luck.
Turbotax vs. TaxSlayer vs. Credit Karma: Which Is Best for You?
You likely landed on this article because you want to know which of these three options would be best for your particular needs. Here are some situations and which one might serve you best.
If you know what you’re doing and have a fairly simple situation:
If you’ve filed your own taxes before and don’t need a lot of guidance, Credit Karma Tax is the way to go. You just can’t beat free! However, that no-price option does have some limitations. It may not offer as much guidance as you’ll get, especially with TurboTax. And if you run into a situation where you need an unsupported form, you’ll have to start over on another platform, which could be frustrating.
When you need to file complicated taxes at a low price:
TaxSlayer is an excellent middle-of-the-road option for price and functionality. It doesn’t offer as much guidance as TurboTax, but it does offer audit support and plenty of tax filing options for a much lower price.
If you need in-person advice:
Got a really complicated tax question? Or want to be sure you’re setting yourself up to save as much money as possible in the next tax year? TurboTax’s CPA situation is a great option in this case. You can talk to a real, certified tax professional without having to pay a ton of money to a private individual or practice. And even one tax year with in-person advice can set you up for success in the future.
When it comes to tax software, there are no shortage of options. You can file your taxes for free (or for cheap) in many cases, but in this case you need to be sure you aren’t missing any pieces. Or you can pay a lot more to have a tax professional look at your tax situation personally. It all depends on your situation and your needs for this particular tax year.