TaxAct is growing in popularity for good reason. Last year (2004), 13 million returns were filed with TaxAct, making it one of the big players in the tax preparation online industry.

TaxAct might seem like a young company to some (in the tax preparation business since 1998), but its savvy business practices ("free means free," says its company website) and smart consumer-oriented features make it a favorite for many and an underrated product in many other tax software reviews. We rate out of 10, with 10 being the highest.

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Navigation and User friendliness: 9
The navigation for TaxAct is well liked by reviewers. The layout is "very fresh" and it is easy to find and select what you want to do with TaxAct. Like the other big players in the tax preparation field TaxAct uses a step-by-step filing approach. The interview does not use the IRS forms as a guide, but asks questions about life events. It also provides tax advice, but in text form only. No flashy videos here.

Ease of Setup: 7.5
TaxAct Deluxe is easy to install and there were no problems or complications. Some reviewers have complained about the ability to find and retrieve updates. Note: TaxAct does not work with Macintosh Computers.

Feature Set: 8
It will compare your tax return to IRS national averages. This can be helpful in deciding whether you want a tax examiner to look at your return. Gives alerts in red, yellow and green, indicating whether or not you may need to correct some of the information you input.

Help: 9
The Help aspect of this program is rated low on razzle dazzle, but high on effectiveness. You won't find any flashy animations or videos (and you're not paying for them either, let's remember). The menu and dropdown are rated very high for effectiveness in answering tax questions. It also offers the option of live advice which you can purchase as an extra (for a one time fee of $19.95).

Effectiveness: 8.5
TaxAct has built a reputation for effective and accurate tax preparation. This year (like a number of other tax preparation services) TaxAct Deluxe offers an accuracy guarantee: "Guaranteed Accurate or TaxAct pays the penalty and interest."

You can fill out a standard form for free. The online deluxe is available for $14.95. Professional tax software (in download or on CD) is available for $99.

Summary: 9
This program may be underrated. There's very little wrong with it.

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