I had intended to do a more comprehensive review of these three options, but as I tried to use them, I realized the choice, at least for this year and for me, was pretty clear.
Honestly, I just couldn’t get past the interface. Yes, lots of people recommend OLT. Huge advantage is that Federal filing is free, for everybody, whatever forms you need.
But I just found the interface very cumbersome. For example, entering UK bank interest required simulating a 1099 for each account, with lots of required questions that have no actual bearing on the final tax return.
If you find OLT easy to use, great for you – I’d love to hear about it in the comments, maybe there was an easy solution I was just missing. But I found the interface clunky and frustrating, and gave up.
TaxAct was much more user friendly, with one critical fault: it didn’t really support the new Form 1116 Schedule B (the foreign tax credit carryover). It popped up the form, asking you to fill it in, but scrolling left and right was broken. Given that the form is built in landscape format, this meant I couldn’t actually see all of the form, making it impossible to use. Minor technical bug, but made it completely unusable for me.
I liked the interface, and it’s a little cheaper than TurboTax. I will definitely consider TaxAct again next year, hoping they get the bugs worked out with the Schedule B.
I did complete my return on TaxAct except for Schedule B, and got the exact same refund result as TurboTax. Everything looked good, and I would have been happy to use it, except for that one critical bug.
I actually don’t like TurboTax – Intuit lobbies to keep the tax code complex so they can make more money and I don’t particularly find the TurboTax interface very user-friendly in situations common for US citizens abroad. But at this point I feel like I have Stockholm Syndrome – I know how to make TurboTax do what I need it to do. They’ve got all my information saved from the last few years, which saves time, and I can just get it done.
I did find a coupon code online (just google “TurboTax coupon”, they change all the time), which got the price down to only $10 more than TaxAct. So I paid that extra $10 just to get my taxes done.
Note that this was using the online version. I have heard good things about the downloadable version, I may explore that next year, if it can import all my existing data.
I filed my extension using Free Fillable Forms this year. It worked perfectly well for that – definitely no reason to pay for an extension, it’s a one-page form. My taxes are complex enough (44 pages this year) that I’m not comfortable doing my full return with Free Fillable Forms. If you have a simple situation, it could definitely work (it’s the AMT FTC and Schedule C parts that make mine kind of complicated, plus a bit of complexity from my pretty boring dividends and interest in two countries). “Simple” might mean earned income with the FEIE, or just one category of FTC, that sort of thing.
Same logic applies to just doing taxes on paper. I actually do print mine out on paper to trace all the numbers through the forms, I find that much easier to review than on screen (and I did catch one number where TurboTax’s guidance didn’t do what I would have expected – easy fix, and made no difference to the final number). But I’m not enough of a glutton for punishment to do it all by hand.
What method are you using for your US taxes this year? Have you finished them, trying to finish in the next 10 days before the extended non-US resident deadline, or already filed an extension to later this year?