eSmart Tax Review
eSmart Tax is online tax preparation software owned by professional tax preparers Liberty Tax and it’s designed to be an affordable, easy to use way to file your Federal and state tax returns online. Unlike other products, eSmart Tax is strictly an online product, which will simplify filing for some taxpayers and make things more complicated for others. They offer three versions of their software – free, Deluxe, and Premium, and nearly everyone will find one of these options suitable for their needs. Unlike other online products, eSmart Tax does offer you the opportunity to receive help in person at one of the many Liberty Tax offices around the country, which can be a huge help if you find yourself in a bind.
eSmart Tax Overview
eSmart Tax is an online application, so you’ll need to go to their Website to purchase and use the product. They offer three versions of their software:
eSmart Tax Basic
This version of eSmart Tax is free, as the company is part of the Free File Alliance. There are certain restrictions that may apply, so not everyone will necessarily be able to use the free version. Despite being free (for Federal returns only; state returns are extra) you’ll still have access to assistance from eSmart Tax representatives should you receive an IRS audit and you’ll have access to online chat should you find yourself having a problem with the software.
The Deluxe version of eSmart Tax includes everything that comes with the free Basic version, plus the ability to itemize deductions, file additional credits, and handle such things as Social Security distributions, child and dependent care, and railroad retirement.
eSmart Tax Premium
The Premium version of eSmart Tax includes everything above, plus extra tools to help the self employed (schedule C), capital gains and losses, retirement contributions, first time home buyer issues, rental income, stocks, bonds, retirement income and more.
Unlike other products, it’s a bit difficult to discern exactly which version of eSmart Tax you might need, as there’s a bit more overlap between the versions than there is with other tax preparation products. While there is a free version, it appears that most taxpayers are going to need either the Deluxe or the Premium version. There’s a list on their Website that makes it a bit easier to choose which version you need.
All three versions work basically the same way, by asking you a series of “yes” or “no” questions to walk you through the process. The interface is intuitive and easy to use, and you can file both state and Federal taxes through eSmart Tax.
eSmart Tax Pros and Cons
On the plus side, the software is easy to use, and makes it easy to import prior year forms from a variety of competing software products. Some programs work better at this than others, and eSmart Tax seems to be compatible with more competitors’ products than some other software packages we’ve seen.
Extra help is available if you need it. As eSmart Tax is owned by Liberty Tax, you’ll have the ability to visit one of their many offices nationwide should you find yourself in a bind. Alternatively, you can get help online via chat.
eSmart Tax is affordable for many taxpayers, as a lot of them will be able to use the free option. At $29.95, the Deluxe version is also quite affordable.
There are problems with all software products; that just comes with the territory. eSmart Tax seems to have less sophisticated tools for deduction discovery, and deductions are a big part of determining how much you’re going to pay on your taxes. More deductions means less tax, but if you have a lot of deductions or think you will and you’re not sure what is and what isn’t deductible, you may have more success with another product.
eSmart Tax is an online product, which means that you’re going to need to have an active Internet connection to use it. Unlike other products, the software isn’t downloadable, so you can’t put it on a laptop and work on your taxes at your cabin in the woods that has no Internet. This is a minor issue for many people, but a few may find it a nuisance.
Online support exists, but there’s no user forum and a limited number of video tutorials. A lot of people are visual learners and like demonstrations to “see how it’s done.” It appears that eSmart Tax is adding videos to their site, so this issue may be largely resolved by the time April rolls around.
The pricing, while affordable, isn’t necessarily cheap. A number of taxpayers are going to need the Premium package, and when you combine this with the additional cost of filing a state return with eSmart Tax, you may find yourself spending more money than you would with other products.
All in all, eSmart Tax is a good product that will work well for many taxpayers. It does have one large drawback, but in that, it isn’t unique – this is a product for tax preparation and most taxpayers need a product that will help them create a tax strategy. The U.S. government allows taxpayers to deduct all kinds of expenses; the tax code is tens of thousands of pages long and there are lots of ways to save money on taxes that even accountants don’t know about. If they don’t know about it, you can bet that eSmart Tax and other tax preparation products won’t know about them, either. What you need, if you want to save as much money as possible on your taxes, is a product that will keep you informed about what you can do, day in and day out, to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your income tax. You want a product that’s continuously updated so you’re always aware of the latest changes in tax law and how they’re going to affect you.
You’re not going to get that from tax preparation software.