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TaxSlayer Classic 2022 (tax year 2021) review

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 covers all tax scenarios, but it’s not a good choice for crypto holders

TaxSlayer Classic 2021 review
(Image: © TaxSlayer)

Tom's Guide Verdict

TaxSlayer Classic is the best tax software for those on a budget, but H&R Block and TurboTax offer more guidance.

Pros

  • +

    Inexpensive, simplified pricing structure

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    Classic version services all tax situations

  • +

    Lets you work on up to four years of returns

  • +

    Tax expert guidance for Premium and Self-Employed levels

Cons

  • -

    Context-sensitive help lacks depth

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    No cryptocurrency guidance

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    Lacks a donation calculator

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 is the best tax software for those who want to retain the conveniences of more pricey packages while saving money on doing taxes. Apart from the entirely free Cash App Taxes and FreeTaxUSA, TaxSlayer remains the least expensive way to file a federal return across a wide variety of tax situations, including for investments and self-employed.

While pricing and support structure are still big differentiators for TaxSlayer, the service’s friendly interface and clear guidance also stand out. And it is the only service beyond FreeTaxUSA that allows you to do three years of back taxes online in addition to the current year. Sure, TaxSlayer Classic doesn’t provide as much hand-holding as you’ll get with pricier competitors such as H&R Block and TurboTax, but it gets the job done without sacrificing features like importing some W-2 documents by photo.

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 review: Cost

TaxSlayer has four tiers of service in its online Federal portfolio; prices range from free to $47.95. 

The structure of the services is slightly different from competing tax-preparation software. Simply Free is just that, and it handles W-2 and education deductions and credits. The $17.95 Classic tier handles most tax situations, while Premium ($37.95) adds priority phone and email support and Ask a Tax Pro expert assistance. The $47.95 Self-Employed tier notes it is best for those who contract, freelance or have a side hustle (technically, the necessary tax forms are in the Classic version, but you need to go to Self-Employed to get tax expert help).  

In its site menu, TaxSlayer lists out a dedicated Military tier, which allows active service members to do their Federal return for nothing (by contrast, TurboTax does the same, but uses its onboarding questions to create a military-appropriate experience.)

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 review: State filing

State tax filing is included with the free version. State filing costs $36.95, up $5 from last year, for the other tiers of service. That’s still $13 cheaper than TurboTax. Military members file for free, same as with TurboTax.

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 review: Features

TaxSlayer isn’t big on fancy features, but the interface and flow has seen subtle improvements. The big new feature for 2022 in Classic and above is the ability to import CSV files for investment transactions (last year’s big feature boost was using a photo to populate the W-2 data fields). TaxSlayer again tweaked the Quick File experience, which provides a streamlined process by letting you jump directly to specific forms you know you need. You still get one year of IRS Audit Assistance.

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

When you step up through the paid tiers, you gain additional features, most of which are related to support (which we’ll discuss next). The Premium and Self-Employed tiers bump the IRS Audit Assistance to three years. The Self-Employed tier also gains additional relevant guidance for 1099 income and extra in-service help to maximize work expense deductions. And you get a guide to self-employment, quarterly estimated tax payment reminders and year-round tax and income tips.

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

The Simply Free version of TaxSlayer covers fewer tax situations than competitors, but does include free phone and email support.

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 review: Available help

The Support Center front page is slightly better with a tile-style design, but go one page deeper and the site’s visual aesthetic continues to be a throwback to the turn-of-the-century. Classic users can get help by email, chat or non-toll-free phone (9 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET). For Classic users, chat is not an option from within the service. 

The help inside the service is the same as in the Support Center, and it lacks the depth and detail of some competitors. For example, a search for cryptocurrency information revealed the same two not-very-helpful entries both via the web support and from within the app. 

Overall, the look is similar to last year’s help design, with fly-out panels on the right that collapse away if not needed. Some questions have a learn more bug; when clicked, it reveals a fly-out pane at left with the definitions. We found the pane awkward to read on the left; the eye’s flow across the screen more naturally moves from left to right, and that pane seems like it would be better served as an overlay at right.

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

Put simply, the site’s support pages are light on guidance and help. To get more robust support, you need to jump up to the Premium or Self-Employed tiers. Premium and Self-Employed both get priority phone and email support, and the ability to consult an expert with the Ask a Tax Pro feature (Self-Employed connects you to pros with self-employment experience).

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 review: Ease of use

Signing up for TaxSlayer Classic is a standard affair. If you’ve used TaxSlayer before, it welcomes you back and shows either your prior year returns (if you never did a return for a recent tax year, this screen will even give you a chance to start one for up to an additional three years back.

The service deviates from norms by requiring you to provide a signature agreeing to the terms of using the service immediately after your first sign-in for the tax year. It also tries to upsell you to Premium before you’ve even started working on your return. We skipped that part, and proceeded to work on our taxes in the Classic version. 

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

Once inside the service, we found a minimalist yet styled interface. Large-type headline fonts and graphics with a splash of color give the pages life. Data gets entered in the center section, with a collapsible left pane for navigating within a return and the slide-out right panel for help. The interface has had some mild tweaks and has some pleasant graphic touches, but not many.

The next screen requested our full Social Security number to import information and W2 data from a PDF of last year’s return. We skipped this verification and continued fresh for this year.

The first intake screen asked for your personal information (name, social, birthday and occupation). The second covered residency information, followed by a dozen on-boarding questions, among them whether the taxpayer served in a combat zone or was affected by a natural disaster during the current tax year. Amidst these questions, TaxSlayer slips in whether you ever “received, sold, sent, exchanged, or otherwise acquired financial interest in virtual currency during the current tax year.” That’s curiously stilted language to use for cryptocurrency, and the service lacked a learn more info panel to explain.

Then we added filing status. Rather than a learn more pane, this time the service offered up a Filing Status Wizard which walks through the criteria for filing. Next up was a screen for entering dependents (though no mention here of the child tax credit). Finally, we could enter an IRS Identity Protection PIN.

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

Moving into the meat of the Federal return, TaxSlayer first offers the chance to use Quick File. This improved option lets you enter the numbers or keywords for the forms you need, and then the service walks you through the data entry. 

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

Skipping over Quick File, shifts the prompts to ask whether you want guided navigation (where you answer questions about your tax situation), or to choose forms from a list.

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

At all levels, TaxSlayer lacks strong support for investors, including those with cryptocurrency transactions. All info has to be imported manually. The service refers to cryptocurrency as “virtual currency,” and ticking the box early regarding virtual currency did not impact the service’s guidance later.

Overall, we liked navigating TaxSlayer, though the interface is not without the occasional oddity. For example, the cancel button didn’t consistently take us back to the previously completed screen, but rather moved us forward to the next screen.

TaxSlayer’s responsive design makes the service usable across desktop and mobile web. The service also has a dedicated mobile app. We did like the left nav pane’s detailed menu that lets you navigate at will through different sections of the return, and its ability to tuck away to save screen real estate.The Federal return is broken up by income, deductions, other taxes, payments and estimates, miscellaneous forms and COVID-19 Relief (which includes the Child Tax Credit).

Beware the ongoing upsell. In fact, dismissing the ads quickly got tiresome. At form 1099-MISC for entering freelance income, TaxSlayer tried to upsell us to the Self-Employed version; and when that failed, the Premium version.

(Image credit: TaxSlayer)

At the Classic level, you get support for a wider swath of tax forms than with most competitors–including Schedule C business expenses. Once we got to Schedule C expenses directly from the left nav, we hit another ad upselling to three years of audit defense and identity theft monitoring for $44.

TaxSlayer Classic 2022 review: Verdict

TaxSlayer Classic is the best budget tax software because it gets the job done for numerous tax situations–including self-employment–in a reasonably efficient manner. And it does so at the lowest price of any paid tax software. However, TaxSlayer’s guidance still lacks depth, and its interface lacks the breadth of expert support, visual design and friendly language of our best tax software pick TurboTax. If you can spare the extra dollars, we’d suggest springing for one of its competitors, but if you’re on a budget — and don’t mind a bunch of upsells — then TaxSlayer is worth a look.

Melissa Perenson is a freelance writer. She has reviewed the best tax software for Tom's Guide for several years, and has also tested out fax software, among other things. She spent more than a decade at PC World and TechHive, and she has freelanced for numerous publications including Computer Shopper, TechRadar and Consumers Digest.