TaxHawk is one of the few online tax preparation platforms that’s actually free on the federal side for the vast majority of filers, even those with complex situations involving self-employment and freelancing, itemized deductions, capital gains, equity investments, and less common forms of income. Same-year state returns cost $12.95 apiece. The Deluxe package, which offers additional features and functionality (such as amended returns), costs $6.99 per filing.
TaxHawk’s Free Edition supports virtually all IRS forms and schedules. The catch is that the prep process is entirely DIY. If you’re looking for an online tax prep platform that holds your hand from start to finish, stop reading right now and check out our TurboTax review.
You Might Also Like: TaxHawk isn’t the only free online tax preparation platform. If you’re looking for other low-cost alternatives to in-person prep, check out our roundup of the Top-Rated Free Online Tax Preparation Services.
TaxHawk is owned by the same parent company as FreeTaxUSA, and the two platforms are very similar, right down to their web fonts. If you’re familiar with FreeTaxUSA, you’ll be right at home with TaxHawk – though, if you’re familiar with one, it’s not clear why you’d want to switch to the other.
Here’s what you need to know about TaxHawk’s plans, pricing, features, and overall suitability.
TaxHawk has three modules:
- Simple: This module is built for filers with straightforward tax situations that can be completed with Form 1040EZ or 1040A only.
- Basic: This module is for moderately complex situations: homeownership, HSAs, and itemized deductions. Support for the Earned Income Tax Credit is included.
- Advanced: This module is for everyone else: people with multiple income streams, small business owners and solopreneurs, investors, and folks with less common types of income (such as landlords and farmers).
All three modules are free by default. As we’ll see in the next section, tax situation complexity doesn’t affect TaxHawk’s pricing.
Interface and Flexibility
TaxHawk’s interface is pretty flexible. Once you complete the personal information section, you can move throughout the income, credits, and deductions sections at will. If you don’t have enough information to complete a given form at a given time, no sweat – just leave it and move on. You can return at any point before you e-file.
Once you’re into the meat of your return, you can answer questions in an interview-style process, enter data into form fields manually, or alternate. Filling forms out manually isn’t recommended for novices, as TaxHawk’s help resources are relatively thin and IRS publications are mind-numbing (and time-consuming) to pore over.
TaxHawk has a built-in accuracy checker that automatically reviews your return in real time and flags entries that don’t make sense to the system.
While the accuracy checker isn’t clairvoyant and often triggers false alarms, it’s a helpful fallback for hurried filers prone to errant clicks or misplaced numerals. For instance, if you tell the program that you own your home, then indicate that you’ll take the standard deduction, the accuracy checker will prompt you to re-evaluate. It may well be that taking the standard deduction is the right call, but it’s always nice to double-check.
TaxHawk allows prior-year return importing from TaxHawk, TurboTax, H&R Block, or TaxAct. Before you import your return, you need to convert it to PDF format (if it’s not there already) and save the file.
Beyond prior-year returns, TaxHawk’s importing capabilities are severely limited. You have to manually enter information from income and lender statements (1099s and 1098s, for instance). If you earn income from lots of different sources or actively trade equities, you’re likely to face a data entry marathon with TaxHawk. That said, if your money is more valuable than your time, this might be an acceptable trade-off – and if you have just one or two sources of income, you’re not likely to notice the lack of importing capabilities at all.
Accuracy and Maximum Refund Guarantee
TaxHawk has an industry-standard accuracy guarantee. If you incur a federal tax liability or penalty due to a software error, omission, or glitch, you’re entitled to reimbursement. Unfortunately, this guarantee doesn’t hold for state returns – if something goes wrong on that front, you may be on the hook for the full amount. TaxHawk also has a maximum refund guarantee. If an identical return prepared with a TaxHawk competitor nets you a larger refund or smaller tax liability, TaxHawk happily refunds your prep fees.
Plans & Pricing
TaxHawk has two plans. Unlike most tax prep programs, TaxHawk’s plans are differentiated by their features and value-added services, not the complexity of the tax situations they’re built to handle.
1. Free Edition
TaxHawk’s Free Edition includes your federal return at no charge. Each state return is $12.95. With virtually every IRS form available, the Free Edition is appropriate for just about any tax situation, from the very simple to the very complicated. However, it has only the most rudimentary support features, so it’s not ideal for novice filers.
The Free Edition includes:
- All Supported IRS and State Forms. TaxHawk supports virtually all IRS and state forms. On the federal side, that means Schedules A, B, C, D, E, and K. Whether you own your own small business or need to report capital gains from the sale of a home, you’re covered here.
- Bookmarking System. TaxHawk’s prep interface has a bookmarking system that you can use to flag specific sections or pages within sections for future references. It’s particularly useful if you want to begin your return early, but lack all the information necessary to complete a particular portion. Look for the bookmark icon on the prep interface’s upper toolbar.
- Progress Tracker. TaxHawk’s progress tracking tool shows at a glance which sections you’ve begun, which you’ve completed, and where you’re at in each one. It doesn’t drill down too far into the details, but it provides a nice overview for filers who plan to work on their returns over several sessions.
- Real-Time Refund/Liability Display. Like most online tax prep programs, TaxHawk has a real-time tax refund/liability display that changes as you move through your return. You’ll find it on the right sidebar of your return.
- Previous-Year Return Importing. TaxHawk supports prior-year return importing from TaxHawk, H&R Block, TaxAct, and TurboTax. If you filed last year’s return with one of those programs, you can import your demographic and personal information with just a few clicks. Otherwise, you’ll need to manually re-enter all pertinent information.
- Knowledge Base. TaxHawk has a company-generated knowledge base stocked with common tax- and platform-related help topics. You can find answers to most basic tax questions here, but more advanced or complicated issues probably require a visit to the IRS’s website or a human-to-human interaction with someone on TaxHawk’s support team.
- Email Support. TaxHawk has a fairly rudimentary ticket-based email support system. Get started by clicking the Support button on the right sidebar of the prep interface or the footer on the TaxHawk homepage. Expect a response within 24 hours during the week, longer on the weekend. Keep in mind that you can’t get in touch with TaxHawk’s support team by phone with the Free Edition – for that, you need to upgrade to Deluxe.
- Storage for Completed Returns. You can store your completed returns for reference in TaxHawk’s free cloud storage capsule at no additional charge. There’s no sunset or capacity limit. If you’re nervous about cloud storage, you can download your return as a printable PDF as well.
- Prior-Year Returns. You can file prior-year federal returns, going back to 2010, at no charge. Prior-year state returns cost $14.99 apiece.
2. Deluxe Edition
TaxHawk’s Deluxe Edition charges $6.99 to file your federal return and $12.95 per state return. It’s appropriate for filers who need additional support and value-added service, but aren’t willing or able to pay for full-service tax prep at competitors like TurboTax and H&R Block.
The Deluxe Edition includes all the features available in the Free Edition, plus:
- Phone Support. TaxHawk’s phone support team is available to Deluxe users only during tax season: January 3 to April 30, 2018. Open hours are Monday through Friday, 10am to 7pm Eastern Time. Phone support staff can answer technical and basic tax-related questions, but they’re not qualified tax professionals.
- Live Chat. TaxHawk offers live chat support to Deluxe users only. The chat feature is operational year-round, Monday through Friday, 9am to 11pm Eastern Time. It’s not available on weekends or overnight.
- Free, Unlimited Amended Returns. The Deluxe Edition lets you amend and refile as many prior-year returns as you like at no additional charge. You normally have to pay for amended returns on an a la carte basis.
- Audit Assistance. This informational service is available only to Deluxe users. It includes access to on-staff audit specialists trained to answer specific questions about the IRS audit process and audit-related IRS correspondence. They’re happy to review specific pieces of correspondence and answer questions about your specific tax situation. However, this feature should not be confused with actual audit representation, which some online tax prep platforms offer for an additional charge.
1. Extremely Low Pricing
TaxHawk is among the best online tax prep values, bar none. If you’re first and foremost concerned with finding the most cost-effective solution to your annual tax ritual, and your tax situation is too complex for big-name tax prep programs’ free versions, I’m hard-pressed to think of a better alternative. Assuming one state return, you can complete your state and federal filings here for less than $13. By contrast, full-service alternatives like H&R Block and TurboTax can cost $100 or more for your federal return alone.
2. Handy Bookmarking and Progress-Tracking System
TaxHawk’s prep interface has a useful bookmarking system to which I’ve yet to find a superior alternative. It’s great for filers who plan to fill out their returns in stages, perhaps as they receive tax forms from lenders and income sources. When you need to mark a section for any reason, all you need to do is hit the bookmark icon and, voila, it’s flagged for easy reference.
The progress-tracking system is similarly user-friendly. Marked as the “topic list” in the interface, it shows which sections you’ve visited, which you’ve yet to visit, and what you can do in each. While it’s not particularly interactive or granular, it’s a big help for filers returning to the interface after a few days or weeks away.
3. Flexible Interface
TaxHawk’s prep interface is a lot more flexible and user-friendly than some higher-priced alternatives. Once you get past the initial information entry and importing stage, you can freely move between and within sections. This is great news for confident, self-guided filers who know exactly which forms and sections they need to focus on and which they can safely ignore.
4. Long Time-Out Fuse
TaxHawk’s prep interface has a long time-out fuse. I didn’t set my watch to it, but I walked away from the interface for 15 minutes or longer at several points during the prep process. On none of these occasions was I automatically logged out of my account. The only way this qualifies as a drawback is if you’re prepping your taxes on an unsecured network or on a public computer – neither of which you should do anyway, unless you want to make friends with your friendly neighborhood cybercriminal.
1. Not Appropriate for Inexperienced Filers
There’s no sugarcoating it: With TaxHawk, you get what you pay for. Due to its paltry human support resources and DIY interface, this program is not appropriate for inexperienced or first-time filers. If your tax situation is relatively simple, this isn’t that big of a deal, as you can opt for a totally free alternative, such as TurboTax Absolute Zero. If your situation is more complex, your best choices are TaxAct and TaxSlayer, both of which have reasonably priced “all forms” options.
2. Limited Importing Capabilities
TaxHawk’s importing capabilities are pretty limited by competitors’ standards. You can import prior-year returns from TaxHawk, TaxAct, TurboTax, and H&R Block. If you filed with another service last year, you’re out of luck. TaxHawk lacks 1099 importing capabilities too. If you earned interest or miscellaneous income last year, you’ll need to enter all the relevant data yourself – a tedious, potentially time-consuming prospect.
3. Not the Most Mobile-Friendly Platform
TaxHawk has grown more mobile-friendly over the years, but it’s still near the back of the pack on this front. Filers who prefer tablets to laptops or desktop machines should think about mobile-friendly alternatives, such as TurboTax.
4. Limited Support With the Free Edition
As noted, TaxHawk is not the most novice-friendly online tax prep platform around. That’s especially true for the Free Edition, whose support infrastructure consists of a comprehensive but tough-to-navigate knowledge base and a ticket-based email help system that’s not appropriate for urgent queries. Upgrading to Deluxe addresses some of these issues, but the higher-priced plan is still no match for TurboTax’s robust help infrastructure.
5. No Weekend or Overnight Customer Support
TaxHawk’s human customer support team isn’t on duty overnight or on weekends. Deluxe customers can reach support by live chat between 9am and 11am Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. Phone support is available between 10am and 7pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. This is a big drawback for busy filers who don’t have time or energy to fill out their returns during the workweek. Higher-priced competitors generally have longer customer support hours, with some open around the clock at tax season’s height.
6. No Audit Representation
TaxHawk doesn’t offer audit representation for any customers. The Deluxe Edition’s audit assistance module is useful, but it’s no replacement for expert guidance through the audit process. If you’re looking for a tax prep product that can help you with a full-fledged audit, look for an online option with an in-person arm, such as Liberty Tax Online or Jackson Hewitt Online. Full-service online-only programs, such as TaxAct and TurboTax, may offer audit representation as an add-on feature for an additional charge.
Online tax prep isn’t immune to inflation. Like most products and services, it seems to get a bit more expensive every year. I’ve been reviewing tax prep software for several years now, and I’m without fail dismayed – though of course not surprised – when I return to the space each winter and find formerly free plans behind newly erected paywalls.
Along with FreeTaxUSA, its doughty cousin, TaxHawk remains a low-cost oasis in an increasingly expensive online tax prep landscape. Though not for everyone, it fills a crucial niche for confident, frugal filers.
Never change, TaxHawk. Never change.
Have you ever used TaxHawk to prepare your taxes online for free?