TaxACT 2012 Free Federal Edition offers basic tax preparation for and electronic filing of your 2012 federal income tax return. It offers step-by-step guidance not only for filing your taxes but also for maximizing your deductions and refund, if applicable, plus free help from the TaxACT Answer Center and other resources. It's compatible with most versions of Windows, from XP to 8, and complies with the latest updates to the U.S. tax code.
TaxACT 2012 Free Edition starts with a user-friendly interface offering quick links to Basic Info, Dependents, Filing Status, and a range of related topics such as Life Events, State and Federal Q&A, and Next Year (which helps you prepare for the next tax cycle). A small pop-up advised us that the program regularly runs in-product video tutorials during the Interview (set-up) process, which involves a free registration process. We could opt out of these videos by checking a box, something dial-up users will appreciate. Registering TaxACT not only gives you access to more information but also creates your password and provides the Customer ID number you'll need to e-file your taxes with the software. When we were ready to get down to business, we clicked Forms on the toolbar. A huge list of Forms and Schedules is available in a tree view in the program's sidebar -- basically everything from Form 1040EZ to Form T (Forest Activities Schedule) and in between. We clicked Form 8896, the Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel Production Credit form. The form closely resembled a printed federal form. As with similar tools, TaxACT 2012 walked us through each step of entering, checking, and filing our taxes. We should note, however, that we didn't actually file with TaxACT; we simply ran through the steps without sending in our forms. But we were impressed with what it offers, especially compared to similar products.
TaxACT 2012 is also available in a Deluxe version that can import previous years' tax data and do your state taxes. If all you need is to file your 1040s, the Free Federal Edition is sufficient. However, the Deluxe version costs less than $13, so it's affordable if you need it.