eSmart Tax Review
Taxes are complicated. That’s why you want to use the simplest software you can find to get them done. Forget the bells and whistles, be eSmart instead.
- Easy to use
- Tax returns printed and bound
eSmart Tax is one of the new players to the online tax prep game, and while they have some features that all the others have, they do offer a few unique ones that you may find attractive.
In this article, we’ll review eSmart Tax, owned by Liberty Tax, in full, so you can determine if it’s worth your time this tax season or not.
eSmart Tax is a free online tax preparation software that is owned by Liberty Tax. Liberty Tax has over 4,000 physical branch locations, so you may have seen their storefront somewhere and recognize the name. In an attempt to compete with the likes of TurboTax and H&R Block, Liberty Tax has created their own online tax preparation software called eSmart Tax. There are some similarities and differences to more commonly-known online services, such as TaxSlayer and TaxAct, and TurboTax–which is what we’ll explore in this article.
Maximum Refund Guarantee
One of the best features that eSmart Tax offers is their Maximum Refund Guarantee. They want to make sure that you’re getting the most money back (or paying out the least) on your tax return as possible.
If you do your taxes somewhere else and get a bigger refund, eSmart Tax will cover the tax preparation fees, because they feel you’ll get the biggest return with them. They also shoot for 100% accuracy on your tax return, stating that “if our math is off and it results in penalties or interest from the IRS, we will reimburse you the amount of those penalties and interest.”
Tons of Tax Resources
Aside from having a blog, eSmart Tax offers a plethora of tax-related resources on their site. The four main sections are:
- Taxes 101 – learn about educational tax breaks, investments, self-employment, pensions and IRAs, and real estate.
- ACA – understand the basics of the Affordable Care Act and how the tax laws impact you, while also checking for exemptions you may have missed.
- State & Federal help – eSmart Tax lists every state and every form so you won’t miss a single thing.
- Calculators – you can use their handy calculator to estimate how much you will get in a return or how much you’ll owe by filling out some basic information.
- Credit Maximizer. Similar to TurboTax, eSmart Tax has an algorithm that will help determine where you can take the most advantage of tax credits and apply them to your return automatically.
- Audit assistance. eSmart Tax provides all customers with free professional assistance in the event you are audited. They don’t go much beyond explaining and helping you understand your audit notice (you’ll have to pay $30 to have someone actually help you move toward action on an audit).
- Itemized deductions. By responding to a few questions, the eSmart Tax will help you itemize deductions and determine if you’ll save the most money by using this method.
- Non-resident, partial year state return preparation. If you move during the year, eSmart will figure out everything you need to file with both states, if necessary, so you’re not messing anything up. This happened to me last year and it can actually get pretty complicated.
- Printed bound copies. I LOVE this feature–you can order your tax returns as printed and bound copies so you have them handy if and when you need them. Normally this is done by CPAs, but you can have it done when you file instead of having to print off ugly forms and staple them.
- Sale of home. If you sell your home, you’ll need to report it on Form 1040–eSmart Tax will do this for you and help you squeeze the most out of your tax credits for doing so.
- State tax preparation. Like all online tax preparation software, eSmart Tax will prepare your state return as well.
- ACA forms. If you have any tax situations that are impacted by the Affordable Care Act, eSmart Tax is able to help to make sure you’re filing correctly and not missing out on any credits.
- Health Savings Accounts. Many employers are now offering Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as part of their benefits packages. But there are special tax implications for using a Health Savings Account–so you can make sure you’re covered here.
Children and Dependents
- Child and dependent care. If you have children or other dependents, you may qualify for some significant tax breaks. eSmart Tax will help you identify and account for those.
Running a Business
- Business expenses. Whether you are a solopreneur who side hustles for some extra cash or you have a full-blown business, you’ll be able to track and account for any and all business expenses.
- Depreciation. This is common for business owners who need to depreciate the value of their long-term assets for tax purposes.
- Gains, Profit and Loss, S Corp. If you’re in need of filing Schedule D to cover Capital Gains and Losses, you’ll have the ability to do that with eSmart Tax.
- Home office deductions. If you own a small business and work from home, you may be able to deduct the space and equipment you’re using.
- Self-employment income. If you have your own business, eSmart Tax will assist you in determining your net earnings, as well as any self-employment tax you’ll owe.
- Sole proprietor income. If you’re structured as a sole proprietorship, you have all the tools at your disposal to determine your income and taxes.
- Competitor import. If you did your taxes online last year, eSmart Tax will allow you to import your previous return to make this year’s filing a lot easier.
- Create prior year returns. Another really nice feature–if for any reason you need to create a tax return for a prior year, you can do so with this software.
- 24/7 access. Through the tax season, you can access your tax return 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Tax return amendments. Forgot something on your tax return? Many of us have–so you can amend your tax return quickly and easily through eSmart.
Income and Investments
- Income from real estate. If you own real estate, you’ll need certain tax forms to make sure you’re filing correctly and taking full advantage of deductions on your rental properties.
- Interest and ordinary income. If you’re earning a certain amount of money from interest, you may need to file Schedule B.
- W-2 download. Save time by importing your W-2 directly from your employer instead of keying in every number from every box.
There are several pricing tiers with eSmart Tax:
|Best For||Simple Returns||Families||Investors||Business Owners|
(Cost to File State: $35.95)
Cost to File State: $39.95
Cost to File State: $39.95
Cost to File State: $39.95
|Includes:||Includes everything from the Free plan, plus:||Includes everything from the Free and Basic plans, plus:||Includes everything from the Free, Basic, and Deluxe plans, plus:
|Schedules Supported||Form 1040EZ||Form 1040, 8853||Form 1040, 4562, 8829, 4136, 8839, 8853||Form 1040, 4562, 8829, 4136, 4684, 4835, 8839, 8853|
|Forms Supported||Schedule B||Schedule A, B||Schedule A, B, C||Schedule A, B, C, E, F, K-1|
The sign-up process is simple and fast. All you need to do is go to their sign-up page and fill out some key information to get started. From there, you’ll be able to begin your tax return within minutes. One nice thing about the sign-up page is that you can quickly chat with customer service, locate a physical office if you decide you want to go that route or browse through commonly asked questions.
eSmart Tax is completely secure with HTTPS encryption, so you know that the information you provide is confidential and locked up. One feature I absolutely love is their Safe Keeping feature. eSmart Tax will safely and securely store your tax return for five years so you can access and print them whenever you need. This will save a lot of headaches and help you avoid having to dig through physical (or digital) folders to find what you need.
eSmart Tax is completely mobile-friendly, so you can do everything you need–from signing up to working on your tax return–from your tablet or mobile device.
eSmart Tax offers a free chat function where you can instantly chat with a representative about anything you need regarding your tax return. This is an excellent feature, as it saves you time from having to call or wait for a returned email. Alternatively, you can email eSmart Tax’s tech support outside of normal business hours and they’ll get back to you within 72 hours.
Pros & Cons
- Cost effective - for what you get, the pricing is competitive compared to other online tax preparation software.
- You can go to physical branches - unless you go to an accountant, H&R Block is the only other game in town in most areas. It’s nice that Liberty Tax has physical branches you can go to for help with your return, or to file.
- Ability to print and bound your returns - usually only CPAs will do this for you, so having your tax returns printed and neatly bound allows you to store them for safe keeping in case you need to reference back to them (like during an audit).
- Loads of resources - between their guides, the blog, and the customer service you can get via email, chat, physical branch, or social media, you’ll never be short of help. Tax time can be confusing for many, so having this much support is great.
- The website is easy to navigate - if you search around, you’ll find that a lot of people complain about things like the website, which I don’t have a problem with. I think the site is clean and accessible--remember this is a tax website, not a photography website.
- Features aren’t as robust as some competitors - if you pay for a service like TurboTax, you’re going to get more features and resources. The walkthrough on doing your taxes is far more robust with a program like that than eSmart Tax.
- You can’t get a refund bonus - TurboTax and H&R Block will give you a bonus for getting your refund put onto a gift card, but eSmart Tax doesn’t do that. Honestly, this isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but for some who plan to use their tax return for a specific purchase, it might be.
- No phone support - yes, you can talk to customer support via email, chat, or go to a branch, but you can’t pick up the phone and call them, which is odd. For those who need the more personal touch and don’t want to drive to a branch (or don’t have one near them), this will be a big downside.
The alternatives to eSmart Tax are the other major players in the online tax preparation game: H&R Block, TurboTax, TaxAct, and Tax Slayer. TurboTax and H&R Block are more premium options that, in most cases, will cost more but come with more features. You’ll find that TaxAct and Tax Slayer are more comparable in pricing and features. For further reading, check out our full reviews of each:
eSmart Tax has redesigned their site and has a bunch of resources for doing your taxes. You can only have so many bells and whistles when it comes to tax prep, because well… it’s tax prep. Yes, services like Turbotax will blow eSmart Tax out of the water when it comes to brand recognition, services, and features. But eSmart Tax isn’t necessarily trying to compete with them. They’re going after a market who is looking for a lower-cost option that has some unique features, such as printing and binding of tax returns. If you’ve tried Turbotax or H&R Block and are looking for a new, lower-cost option, I’d suggest checking out eSmart Tax this year.