eSmart Tax Review
Is eSmart Tax the best tax preparation service out there? No. But it does its best to compete with the big names. eSmart Tax costs less than the more well-known tax preparation services, and offers many of the same features — the highlight of which is the Maximum Refund Guarantee. Here's how it works: if another do-it-yourself online tax service gets you a bigger refund, eSmart Tax will give back any fees you paid so you can file through its competitor. Although the interface isn't as flashy or intuitive as the top services, it still gets the job done.
Like most other tax preparation services, eSmart Tax will allow you to e-file your federal return for free if you are filing a 1040EZ. It also has Basic ($14.95), Deluxe ($19.95) and Premium ($34.95) options for more complicated tax returns, which are a little bit cheaper than the bigger tax prep services. eSmart Tax claims its Basic plan is best for families, the Deluxe plan is best for investors and its Premium plan is best for business owners. Want to include your state taxes? That will cost $29.95 for any edition you use.
eSmart Tax isn't as flashy or intuitive as other services, especially when it comes to its website's design which can be difficult to navigate. Still, the actual tax filing service is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Navigating through different sections is simple with tabs denoting each section for easy switching back and forth as needed. While we appreciate the ability to easily go to any section, we do wish that eSmart Tax had a "bookmark" ability like TaxAct. We find that having such an ability makes doing returns out of order much easier since you'll not need to recall all completed sections by name in order to return to them.
To the right of the interface, you can access support features and account information as well as upgrade. Frequently asked questions rotate through the bottom section and clicking on one takes you to a page where you can view answers to all of the commonly asked tax questions.
eSmart Tax offers an excellent support page with a slew of frequently asked questions and answers. If your question doesn't appear in the Common Questions section, you can email the customer support team with both technical and tax questions, or upgrade to the Deluxe option and receive access to a certified tax professional. Want in-person support? Set up an appointment at a nearby Liberty Tax Service office, which can be done straight from the interface. It's important to note that in-person support may cost you extra, as it's priced differently than e-filing. As such, it may be best for you to call the office you're considering visiting ahead of time for a quote based on what you need help with.
The service also offers a free live chat function if you are looking for real-time answers. We found chat to be a little weak. When we asked some basic questions trying to get elaboration on some of the vaguer pieces of information on the site, we found the support person to simply be regurgitating what we'd already found on the site. It's important to note that online chat can't answer anything about Liberty Tax Service's in-person service, even general questions. Chat support is best utilized for questions about the site's interface and technical issues. It doesn't include direct help with tax related questions. However, with the Free and Basic editions, you can pay a $4.95 fee for the ability to talk to a tax professional by phone or email.
eSmart Tax also offers the same Audit Assistance as its parent Liberty Tax Service. Basic Audit Assistance comes free for anyone who is e-filing, but for $14.95 you can get enhanced assistance. This allows Liberty Tax Service professionals to give you personal attention in dealing with the IRS and walking you through the auditing process.
eSmart Tax also has a Smart Bundle audit package, which includes Enhanced Audit Assistance (detailed above) and nicely printed and bound copies of your return as well as five years of storage for your returns online. The price of this varies from season to season.
While not as flashy or popular as its competitors, eSmart Tax offers a lot of the same great features with a streamlined tax preparation system. Combined with the Maximum Refund Guarantee, it's definitely a decent service, especially with its budget-friendly price. However unless you know what you're doing, you'll need to purchase add-ons that allow you to access help and support; this can end up making the service more expensive than it initially looks.
|Online Federal Tax Products:||Free Federal: Free|
|Federal Only Fees:||Free for everyone, upgraded services $14.95-$34.95|
|State Only Fees:||$29.95 if you file with your federal return|
|Support Options:||Email and chat options|
|Audit Protection:||Free Basic Audit Assistance |
Enhanced Professional Audit Assistance: $14.95
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