eSmart Tax Review 2020
eSmart Tax, owned by Liberty Tax, is an online tax preparation service that has one of the best information importing systems, making it easier and less time consuming for you to enter in all of your data, but this convenience may come at a higher price than other online tax preparation services.
- Physical Locations
- Extended Chat Hours
- Audit Assistance
- Lack of Access to Forms
The start of a new year brings about all sorts of change. Resolutions, goals, and the start of tax season all arrive in January.
You are probably seeing commercials for tax preparation software and services and thinking about which route you will go this year. While you may go with your tried-and-true software, you may also decide that you’re ready for a change.
eSmart Tax is a preparation software that has made some changes this season that require some input. While they no longer offer a free filing option, they’re still on our list of potential softwares to use this season.
If you’re curious about using eSmart this tax season, check out our full review below.
In This Article:
What is eSmart Tax?
eSmart is an online tax preparation service that is owned by Liberty Tax. They are a separate entity from Liberty Tax’s online system. This means that you can visit any of their locations for assistance should you need it.
eSmart has three basic products to offer users: Basic, Deluxe, and Premium. Each version has a system to assist with increasingly complex tax situations.
eSmart Tax’s Basic version is best for those who have a normal to slightly complicated tax scenario, such as claiming mortgage interest or Health Savings Account tax breaks. It is also the ideal version if you need to claim dependents. This version supports basic filing through forms 1040 and 8853, and it also supports schedules A and B.
The Basic version’s customer support options are just that – basic. You have access to live chat and email support, but that’s about it. Of course, you always have the option to go to a Liberty Tax location, but this can be inconvenient depending on where the nearest location is.
The Deluxe version is ideal for investors or anyone needing assistance with claiming deductions. This version allows you to file business deductions and claim depreciation of assets, which you can’t do using the Basic version.
This version also includes the option to receive advice from eSmart’s seasoned tax professionals. This is a major advantage over the Basic version’s customer support, which only includes email and chat support.
Lastly, eSmart’s Premium version is ideal for small-business owners filing taxes. This system walks you through the process of claiming gains, profit, and loss from an S corporation. You can also maximize deductions from rental property, a home sale, or a small business. If you’re feeling daunted by this year’s taxes, Premium is your best option among eSmart’s products.
eSmart Tax Features
eSmart Tax offers several standard features when it comes to getting your taxes done easily and efficiently.
eSmart understands that it can be a pain to switch from one software to another. They offer competitor import and prior year import to help you transfer onto their system and compare your numbers this year with last year. They also offer W-2 import to keep you from manually entering too much information. Theirs is among the most sophisticated information import systems out there.
Accuracy Guarantee + Maximum Refund Guarantee
Their Accuracy Guarantee and Maximum Refund Guarantee help you feel sound in your decision to use eSmart Tax. The Maximum Refund Guarantee will refund your preparation fees if you find a better refund somewhere else. The Accuracy Guarantee will reimburse you for any penalties or interests that occur due to an error by their system.
On top of these guarantees, the credit maximizer reviews your tax situation to help you get all the credits and deductions you qualify for. This can help you from paying too much in taxes than you need to.
eSmart Tax Pricing
eSmart has changed their pricing this year. They no longer offer a free file option and now require that everyone pay for federal and state filing. This is a major disadvantage for filers that are looking for a cheap option to file simple tax situations.
Currently, eSmart charges the following:
- Basic Version: $44.95
- Deluxe Version: $64.95
- Premium Version: $84.95
- State File Fee: $36.95
You will also need to pay an additional $36.95 for each state form you file. For their system capabilities and service offerings, this is quite a hefty price tag.
In terms of options for a refund, you can receive it in the form of a direct deposit, paper check, US savings bond, or application to next year’s taxes. This is as basic as it gets. If you are looking for more creative refund options, you will need to explore other tax software options.
Signing Up and Getting Started
Throughout their website, you will see buttons that say, ‘Start for Free’. This is misleading because, as previously mentioned, they do not have a free file option. You can sign up for an account for free, but you will need to pay to use the service.
To create an eSmart Tax account, you will need to provide your name, email, and telephone number. They will also require you to create a strong 15-character password. This is more than what most sites require, which is good for security but can be difficult to remember. Make sure you make note of your password.
After that is completed, eSmart Tax will send you an email with a code that grants you access to your account. Once you confirm your code, you will be prompted to upload a PDF of your 1040 form. You are able to begin filing once you finish these steps.
A common complaint of eSmart is that their self-guided navigation system is clunky. It does not operate on a Q&A-style navigation like TurboTax or H&R Block. Rather, they provide of documents that are needed to properly file your return, but you need to have an understanding of how to prepare them in order complete it.
For filers that are comfortable with taking control, this can be a nice change of pace. However, this can spell trouble for inexperienced filers.
eSmart Tax Promotions
If you visit eSmart Tax’s site, you’ll notice that they are currently offering all of their products for $44.95, which is the same price as their Basic version
This is likely an early bird deal for people looking to get their taxes done as soon as possible. They do not say when the prices will go back to normal.
eSmart Tax Security
eSmart Tax utilizes physical, electronic, and procedural security measures to make sure that your sensitive information is adequately protected.
They abide by industry standards for information security. All transactions that occur through their site are protected with up to 256-bit Secure Sockets Layer encryption. You can also see that their hosting platform, Go Daddy, certifies them as a secure site.
eSmart Tax uses two-factor authentication for login security. They set email as your default second factor, but you can opt for text message authentication as well.
They also have a Safe Keeping feature, which stores up to five years of returns that you can print and review. This can help you stay organized and know that your data is stored safely for you to refer to at any time.
Customer Service and Support
Liberty Tax’s ownership of eSmart Tax is a major plus when it comes to service.
eSmart Tax users are allowed to visit any of Liberty Tax’s 4,000 locations to receive in-person assistance should they need it. This is great if you find yourself scratching your head and just want someone to sit down and help you.
However, Liberty Tax Online customers take priority, so you may experience less assistance than if you were a customer of Liberty Tax directly.
You can access their chat and email support through all versions and the tax professional support through their Deluxe and Premium versions.
eSmart Tax also has a common questions page, but these questions mostly answering questions about their software. There is also a Taxes 101 page that has articles about tax preparation and the eSmart tax calculator to help you plan.
Pros and Cons of eSmart Tax
It’s important to understand where eSmart Tax stands in regard to its competition. Check out some of the pros and cons of eSmart Tax below.
- Physical Locations: eSmart Tax is backed by Liberty Tax, which means that you can visit any of their 4,000 locations to receive in-person assistance. The chance to sit down with a real person to review your return is enormous if you are a first-time filer.
- Long Chat Hours: Their chat feature can be accessed all year round and have longer hours during chat season. This is beneficial to those preparing to file or people who need to make additional payments throughout the year.
- Audit assistance: eSmart Tax offers Complimentary Audit Assistance to anyone who files their taxes through their system. This will help you interpret any notices you receive from the IRS and give advice on how to proceed with your audit. For $29.99, you can purchase Enhanced Audit Assistance. This allows you to discuss your audit with a tax professional but does not provide official representation.
- Pricing: It’s pretty common these days for tax preparation softwares to offer a free file version, even if it is just a bare-bones 1040 filing. Now that eSmart has gotten rid of their free file option, they stand to lose out on filers that are looking for simple filing options for cheap.
- Need to upgrade to access more forms and schedules: The Basic version is very minimal despite its price point. You will need to upgrade to one of their more expensive packages to access forms for more complex scenarios.
- Lackluster knowledge base: Their common questions page is specific to questions about eSmart Tax rather than tax preparation in general. You can always refer to their Taxes 101 page, but sometimes it’s helpful to have FAQ’s rather than digging through articles to find the answer to your question.
Alternatives to eSmart Tax
In today’s day in age, you have many options when it comes to when and how you file your taxes. If you find that eSmart is not the best option for you, check out some alternatives for this tax season.
TaxSlayer is one of the most budget-friendly software out there. They offer free file options, and their basic paid version does not restrict any forms or schedules. They have a simple, easy-to-use layout that lets you switch between guided and self-guided navigation. Their mobile app helps you import data from your W-2 into your return. Overall, this is a great option for anyone looking to cut down on software costs this year.
H&R Block is a trusted name when it comes to tax preparation services. Their software is more expensive than eSmart Tax, but they will walk you through the process and offer more features. With almost three times as many locations as Liberty Tax, they are likely to be more convenient if you need to speak to someone in person.
Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma Tax is emerging as a major player in the tax software field. They offer users completely free filing that isn’t just a 1040. Their program includes free audit defense, which is a huge advantage over competitor’s audit support. They have also improved their customer service and navigation.
However, it doesn’t support every tax situation, so make sure that your needs are met before deciding on Credit Karma Tax.
Is eSmart Tax for You?
As with all tax software, it’s best to understand your tax needs before you decide on any particular company. Are you interested in robust audit assistance and defense? Are you concerned about correctly claiming small business income? Perhaps your needs are simple, and you’re just looking for the least expensive software for the job. Whatever your needs are, it’s important to know what they are going in.
eSmart Tax is best for people who feel comfortable preparing their own taxes but want the option for additional assistance should they need it. That being said, there isn’t much that sets eSmart apart from its competition.
People who are confident in their filing abilities can find better prices and better navigation through sites like TaxSlayer. Tax filing novices will feel more comfortable with a service like H&R Block. You’ll pay more, but you will have plenty of guidance and assistance along the way.
While eSmart has emerged as an option for some, they still have a way to go if they want to compete in the software space