eSmart Tax Reviews: Is It a Good Software for Filing Your Taxes?
eSmart Tax is an online tax software from Liberty Tax that provides four different plans priced according to how complex your return is.
What makes the software different from many products you see is that it has a brick-and-mortar tax company behind it. This means that you can go into any Liberty Tax office to get support in the event, for example, you get an audit notice from the IRS.
This in-person support is a valuable benefit if you’re someone who isn’t quite comfortable filing your taxes with purely online tax software.
Through our review of eSmart Tax, you’ll be able to get a clear sense of what this software can offer and if it is a good solution for your tax needs.
eSmart Tax uses an interview-style approach to your tax return. When you create an account and start your return, the software will get information from you by asking you questions.
This approach makes tax returns easier to understand. Instead of presenting you with technical verbiage, a question-based approach makes complex concepts simple.
As you answer questions, the software compiles information and uses it to fill out various forms and schedules related to your tax deductions, credits and refund amount.
When you complete your return, eSmart Tax will check your return for errors. You’ll then electronically sign the return and submit it to the IRS.
If you have any questions while you’re working on your return, you can use the software’s live chat option. All filers can email support, too. Certain customers who pay for eSmart Tax’s more expensive plans will have access to tax professionals who can give advice, too.
Another option for resolving a problem or getting an explanation is to go to eSmart’s support page, where you’ll find a substantial number of articles covering all types of tax situations.
This big educational section is a great tool if you’re used to doing taxes on your own but want to read through explanations of sections or questions that don’t make sense.
Refund and Accuracy Guarantees
eSmart guarantees their software can provide you with your maximum refund via a 100% accurate tax return. If you get a higher refund amount from a different site with the same information you gave eSmart, you can get your eSmart filing fees refunded.
To take advantage of this guarantee, you’d have to file with eSmart and then fill out a return on another site to see if you can get a bigger refund. So, while the idea of a max-refund guarantee is promising, it may not be realistic if you have a complex return and don’t want to go through the rigors of filling out a tax return on a second site.
The second part of eSmart’s guarantee is their accuracy. If you enter all the correct information into your tax return and a miscalculation by the software results in you getting IRS penalties or interest, eSmart will reimburse you for those charges.
|Real estate investments||✔|
|Live chat support||✔||✔||✔|
|Access to tax pros||✔||✔|
All plans include audit support, which entitles you to conversations with an in-office Liberty Tax representative who can talk with you about what you can expect from the IRS audit process.
Also, all plans accept forms for expats who need to file forms 1116 (foreign tax credit) or 2555 (foreign earned income credit).
Other features include:
- W2 import
- Import of past tax returns
- Import of tax returns from other sites
- Form 8962: Premium tax credit for healthcare marketplace plans
This plan is best for homeowners and families that want to itemize their deductions and have to fill out forms specific to mortgage interest. Expats will also benefit from this plan.
Common supported forms include:
- Income from W-2s
- Form 8936: Mortgage interest credit
- Form 8899: Health Savings Accounts
- Earned Income Tax Credit
- Schedule A: Itemized deductions
- Schedule B: Interest payments and stock dividends
The main difference between Basic and Deluxe is that this plan is tailored for freelancers who work from home. The forms this plan accepts include what you need to deduct common expenses like:
- Home office
- Office supplies
- Subscriptions related to your work
- Fees you pay to sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com
This plan would also be good if you want access to tax experts, as it includes assistance from Liberty Tax tax pros.
The forms this plan accepts include:
- Form 4136: Fuel tax credit
- Form 4562: Depreciation and amortization
- Form 8829: Expenses for business use of your home
- Form 8839: Adoption expenses
- Schedule C: Business-related deduction
This plan is the best fit for you if you’re a business owner who has income from a variety of sources including payment from business partnerships. You can claim numerous deductions with this plan that you can’t make in the Deluxe plan.
Forms you can file in this plan include what you get in Basic and Deluxe plus the following:
- Form 4684: Casualties and theft
- Form 4835: Farm rental income and expenses
- Schedule E: Real estate, royalty, and S-Corp income
- Schedule F: Farm income and expenses
- Schedule K-1: Partnership profit and losses
State Tax Filing: $36.95
No matter which of the plans you select, you’ll pay an additional $36.95 to do your state taxes if your state charges income tax. The states that do not require tax returns are AK, FL, TN, NH, NV, SD, TX, WA, and WY.
eSmart Bundle: $29.99
This bundle provides you with three specific add-ons.
The first is enhanced audit assistance. You get advice about how to prepare for the audit, will help you craft your correspondence with the IRS and will work with help you through your audit results and assist you in coming up with a plan.
In our opinion, this service is worth the extra cost if you’re concerned about audits. The help you get is superior to what’s offered for free. The advice you’ll get is more in-depth and will give you a deeper understanding of the audit process and how to say the right things (and avoid the wrong wording) when talking with or writing letters to the IRS.
The bundle also includes a printed, bound copy of your tax return (good for storing a hard copy) and online access to your return for five years.
|eSmart Tax||ezTaxReturn||TurboTax||TaxAct||H&R Block|
|Homeowner filing cost*||$44.95||$29.95||$40||$29.99||$29.99|
|Investor filing cost*||$64.95||$29.95||$70||$39.95||$49.99|
|Freelancer filing cost*||$89.95||$29.95||$90||$74.95||$49.99|
|Business owner filing cost*||$89.95||$29.95||$90||$74.95||$79.99|
|State filing cost*||$36.95||$19.95||$0 for free filing, $40 for paid version||$0 for free, filing $39.95 for paid version||$0 for free version, $36.99 for paid versions|
|On-demand CPA/ EA/ Tax expert access||Yes||No||Yes (extra $50 to $90)||No||Yes (extra $30 to $60)|
|Support options||Chat, email, in-office visit||Phone, email||Video, phone, chat, email||Phone, chat, email||Phone, chat, email, in-office|
|Paid access to CPAs and EAs||No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Audit services||Will help you draft your correspondence with the IRS but will not represent you in IRS meetings ($29.99)||Will correspond on your behalf and represent you in IRS audit meetings ($39.99)||Will correspond on your behalf and represent you in IRS audit meetings ($39.99)||Will correspond on your behalf but won’t represent you in IRS audit meetings (free)||Will correspond on your behalf and represent you in IRS audit meetings (free)|
*Pricing reflects cost at the beginning of tax season. As the tax deadline gets closer, prices go up.
Because all tax preparation software shares many of the same features, it’s important that you know exactly what you want out of your software.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Are You Comfortable Handling an Audit on Your Own?
If you aren’t worried about dealing with the IRS, then audit assistance shouldn’t play a role in your decision. If you aren’t comfortable with representing yourself, then find a tax software that will correspond on your behalf and send a representative to attend audit meetings with you.
Do You Want to Consult With a Professional While You Do Your Taxes?
Most tax software will offer some sort of on-demand support. However, only certain sites give you the option of paying for access to CPAs, enrolled agents and experienced tax pros. In some cases, these experts will look over your return before you submit it.
How Well Do You Know Your Tax Situation?
If you’re someone who studies how your life changes and tax code changes affect your filing status, finding a site with a robust educational section may not be a priority. However, sites with education sections that are easy to navigate and provide clear information can be a huge help if you constantly have questions you can’t answer while you file. Also, a live chat option is another way to clear up any confusion or questions you have as you’re filing your return.
What Is Your Budget?
Tax software prices are notoriously varied and it can be hard to understand how much value you’re getting out of a particular plan. Before you check prices, ask yourself how much you want to spend filing taxes. Allow yourself a little wiggle room if a particular software is slightly more expensive but is the perfect fit for your needs and tax situation.
You’ll find that most sites operate the same way. They walk you through your return using questions, they offer some form of live support and they all use the same calculations to estimate how much your refund will be or how much you owe.
eSmart Tax’s question-based tax software will make the filing process easy for you. The software’s extensive education section, as well as their live support, provide a safety net for you if you’re stressed out about filing or have had a difficult time DIYing your taxes in past years.
However, eSmart Tax offers no clear advantage over other tax software with similar price points. It does not have a free plan and its prices for business and freelance filers are higher than the competition.
If your main reason for considering eSmart Tax is that there’s a brick-and-mortar tax firm behind it, add H&R Block to your list of tax software options. Their prices are lower for federal returns and they have a nationwide network of offices.