The IRS Free File program is still restricted to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $57,000 or less, but major software companies offer free, basic versions of their tax preparation software to everyone, regardless of income. TaxACT Free Edition 2011 is the most robust of these, reviews say. It includes every e-fileable federal form, whereas free versions of TurboTax and H&R Block At Home omit certain forms. Like most free programs, TaxACT Free Edition includes free federal e-filing, and it charges just $15 for state e-filing (free versions of TurboTax and H&R Block At Home both charge $28). However, if you plan to use the software for your state return, reviews say you're better off getting the more full-featured TaxACT Online Ultimate 2011 (*Est. $18), which includes free state e-file. Note that Mac and iPad users can only use TaxACT Free Edition online; a downloadable free version is available for your desktop, but it's Windows-only. If you have a complex tax return and need extra guidance, reviews recommend stepping up to TurboTax Deluxe 2011 (*Est. $50) or Premier 2011 (*Est. $75).
MoneyCrashers.com publishes a hands-on comparison test of TaxACT Free Edition, in which blogger Kira Botkin uses it, alongside paid versions of TurboTax and H&R Block At Home, to do her own taxes. PCMag.com's Kathy Yakal recommends TaxACT Free Edition based on her test of the paid edition. About.com's Shelley Elmblad praises TaxACT Free Edition after a hands-on preview of the 2011 software, and she also recommends it at Examiner.com. Download.com offers only a couple of user reviews of this year's TaxACT Free Edition, but a number weigh in on earlier versions.
After testing the free version of TaxACT against paid versions of TurboTax and H&R Block At Home, blogger Kira Botkin decides she'll use TaxACT to file her own taxes this year. The price is right, and it gives her a bigger refund than TurboTax, which inexplicably knocks off $21. Still, it's best for tax-savvy people, she says. If you're not, she recommends upgrading to paid software for extra help.
Kathy Yakal tests the paid version of TaxACT, but she says the free version is just as capable, minus some help features, and "should be your first stop if you're considering online tax preparation this year."
Review: TaxACT Online Ultimate Bundle (2011), Kathy Yakal, Jan. 26, 2012
About.com's guide to financial software, Shelley Elmblad, previews TaxACT software for tax year 2011. She says the free version "is an excellent option for simple tax returns." Although it works for complex returns, she recommends stepping up to the paid version for extra features that will help you do the job more quickly and easily. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: TaxACT Tax Software Review, Shelley Elmblad, Dec. 8, 2011
Shelley Elmblad, About.com's guide to financial software, is also a personal finance expert for the Milwaukee area for Examiner.com. Here, she recommends TaxACT Free Edition 2011 as "the best free tax software based on features for more complex returns."
Review: 3 Best Free Tax Software Options, Shelley Elmblad, Feb. 4, 2012
Only two users had review the 2011 tax year version of TaxACT Free Edition -- but Download.com, a CNET site, lists more than 40 user reviews for prior years' versions. Three out of four of those users gives it 4 or a perfect 5 stars, but some downgrade it for being too stripped-down.
Review: TaxACT 2011 Free Federal Edition, Contributors to CNET