EZ Tax Return Review
If you’re interested in preparing your own income taxes and you’d like some software help, you might want to consider EZ Tax Return. The New York state-based company has been offering tax software to the public since 1999, and they claim 99% customer satisfaction with their product. EZ Tax Return is easy to use, intuitive, and affordable, and will be a good fit for many consumers.
EZ Tax Return Overview
Most tax software is subdivided into three or four products, depending on the anticipated needs of the buyer. There are basic editions, for those who just have W2 income, and more complex versions, for people who are married or may own real estate, and “premium” editions for those with extensive stock portfolios, rental property or small businesses. That’s pretty common; we’ve found that almost everyone has a multi-tiered system. That’s not the case with EZ Tax Return; they have basically two versions – the free version and the paid version.
EZ Tax Return Free Version
As part of the Free File Alliance, EZ Tax Return does offer a free version of their software for filing your Federal tax return. The free version does come with a number of qualifiers, based on your age, income or location. Still, probably about 60% of all American taxpayers will qualify. The free version of EZ Tax Return is fairly basic, and doesn’t include a lot of extras that many will find essential.
EZ Tax Return Paid Version
The paid version of EZ Tax Return currently costs $19.95 and will cover everyone else who doesn’t qualify for the free version. This version includes some extras that aren’t available in the free version. You’ll have access to prior years’ returns. You’ll have help in the event that you are audited. You get amended return insurance and the ability to amend your returns online.
Neither version of EZ Tax Return includes state returns; the cost of those is $19.95 regardless of which version you use for your Federal return.
EZ Tax Return Pros and Cons
The EZ Tax Return user interface is easy to use and intuitive, and as with many other software products, you answer a series of questions in order to complete your form. Certain words and phrases are hyperlinked; if you click on them you’ll receive a detailed explanation as to what they mean. EZ Tax Return is surprisingly thorough; even though there’s only one version of the paid software, it includes a lot of forms and features that one ordinarily finds in other companies’ premium products. That means if you’re self-employed, or have children and Earned Income Tax Credit or real estate that you rent, or own a small business, you can still use EZ Tax Return to file. On the whole, the software is thorough and easy to use, and the company estimates that most filers will be able to complete their returns in about a half an hour.
EZ Tax Return Cons
Like any software product, EZ Tax Return does have it’s downsides. You don’t have the opportunity to print your return as a PDF before filing in order to check it. The navigation through the software is a bit awkward; you have to use forward and back buttons to go from page to page, as there is no formal navigation system. You can’t bookmark certain sections of the software or make notes in case you need to come back later. This won’t be a problem for most users, but for those with more complex returns, it can be a big drawback not to have this feature.
Tech support appears to be by email only and not by phone or in person. There are a number of sites with reviews of this software that have complaints about poor tech support and customer service on this product, though we haven’t contacted them ourselves.
The EZ Tax Return software is not downloadable; you must complete your tax forms online. That means you have to have an active Internet connection; you can’t just download the software now and use it whenever or wherever you like. For most users, this isn’t a problem, but some may have issues with it. As the software is only available online, you’ll also have to trust EZ Tax Return to securely store your data. We’re not aware of any security issues with this product, but we thought we’d make you aware of the possibility.
The biggest flaw in this software is what it doesn’t know. All tax software has this problem; it only knows what you tell it and it only knows basic things about deductions. The U.S. tax code is tens of thousands of pages long and there are thousands of ways that you can take legitimate tax deductions from your income to save money on your taxes. Some of these are simple and obvious, and EZ Tax Return will know about those. Many of them, however, are so obscure that even most accountants and professional tax preparers don’t know about them! That doesn’t make them any less meaningful; any deduction that you can legally take will save you money, but if you or your tax software don’t know about them, you’re out of luck.
That’s why tax software such as EZ Tax Return isn’t enough. You also need a product that will tell you about additional ways that you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your taxes, not just this year, but every year. You want to be able to keep up with changes in the tax code, so if new ways of saving money pop up or if old ones go away, you’ll know about it and you’ll be able to act upon it.
Tax deductions are a moving target. To save the most on your taxes, you have to keep up with all of the ways that you can save money. EZ Tax Return is good software, but it’s not enough. If you want to save the most you can legally save on your tax returns, you need more than just tax software. You need a sound tax strategy.