What Is eSmart Tax?
eSmart Tax is a tax filing website run by Liberty Tax, one of the nation’s largest tax-preparation chains. Their site offers four different tiers of tax filing ranging in price from free to $44.95.
eSmart is very similar to H&R Block’s website in that you’re filing your taxes through a site that’s linked to a brick-and-mortar tax preparer.
The biggest difference between heading into a Liberty Tax office and filing through Liberty’s eSmart website is price: office visits tend to cost more than $100.
While using online software is cheaper, you have the burden of having to put all the right information in the right places.
As a result, how a site is set up can be a huge help or a hindrance to your DIY tax abilities. Along with ease-of-use comes information. If you have a question about a particular term or request, will eSmartTax.com give you the answers you need in a timely manner?
These are just a few of the issues important to filing taxes online and they’re what can set apart one site from another.
How does eSmart Tax compare to the competition? That’s something we’re going to explore in this review, using information we’ve gathered from their site as well as our own research of other sites to give you a sense of what eSmartTax.com offers.
The eSmart Tax Filing Options
Like all online tax software sites, eSmart offers multiple tiers of pricing, with each tier offering to cover more tax situations than the previous one:
eSmart’s free filing is very similar to what you’d find on other sites. These types of returns are the simplest: no itemized deductions and no self-employment or homeownership income and deductions, respectively.
In this sense, It’s the perfect type of return for a couple with kids or a single person with or without kids who earns a W-2 and rents their home, apartment or condo.
According to their website, some of the situations covered by free filing are:
- Forms related to your healthcare.gov insurance plan (tax subsidies)
- Free chat advice and tech support
- Children and dependents
Also, your free return will automatically import your W-2 and any information you filed with competing sites you used in previous years.
Now, what’s hard to tell from looking at their features is whether or not you get child-related credits other than those you’d earn for paying for childcare. Other tax credits and deductions you can get include deductions for fees related to adoption as well as a tax credit based on your income and number of children.
According to eSmart, this level of tax return is best for families.
After we took a look at what you get from this plan as opposed from the Free plan, we think that the differentiation between Basic and Free isn’t big enough to characterize one as best for families and one as best for “simple returns.”
Based on the charts provided by the site, the situations you get with Basic that you don’t get with free are:
- Itemized deductions
- HSA accounts
- Interest earnings
- Self-employment income
- Business expenses
Those final three situations are key differentiators between Basic and Free. Each one is tailored to freelancers and self-employed taxpayers. Most freelancers will claim self-employment income as well as business expenses like new computers, printer paper and office supplies you bought specifically to do your work.
Depreciation is a type of deduction you can claim in situations where you buy something new and, instead of claiming the entire cost of the item in one year, you claim it over the course of multiple years because the item’s value decreases over time.
In terms of the forms you’ll fill out, Schedules A and B are included here as well as 1099’s and the 8853, which is a form you use if you have long-term care insurance.
While this package covers self-employment income and some deductions, it doesn’t allow you to file a Schedule C, which is a profit and loss form that also includes the full suite of itemized business deductions like the home-office deduction.
So, while Basic is good for freelancers and the self-employed, it limits your ability to earn the maximum deductions on work-related expenses.
If you’re a freelancer as your primary job or a full-time small business owner with a variety of deductions, then Deluxe provides you with the level of service you need mainly because it allows you to file a Schedule C.
This form is important for small businesses and freelancers because it includes a variety of the most pertinent deductions: fees, commissions, mortgage interest, legal services, insurance, taxes and licenses, travel, home office and more.
This category of tax return also covers the following forms in addition to the 1040, 1099 and 8853 mentioned in the previous section:
- 4562: Depreciation of property
- 8829: Home business expenses
- 4136: Fuel-related deductions
- 8839: Adoption expenses
- Schedule C: Business expenses
Based on our research of this particular filing tier, we believe this could be a good fit for someone who freelances full-time or is a small business owner.
At this point, eSmart’s filing tiers have covered pretty much most of the situations the average W-2 or freelance worker would find themselves in; small-business owners, too.
What sets the Premium tier apart from Free, Basic and Deluxe is that it encompasses far more forms that cover very specific tax situations.
For example, Premium gets you everything Deluxe offers plus Schedules E, F and K-1:
- Schedule E: Income earned from things like estates, rental income, trusts and S-corps
- Schedule F: Profits and losses from farming
- Schedule K-1: Income related to being a partner in a business
In addition to these, you have the ability to file a few additional forms that you can use to deduct stolen property and income/expenses from farm rentals.
How eSmart’s Prices Compare to Other Sites
In our comparison of the four most popular tax-filing sites, we provide a detailed breakdown about what TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer and TaxAct cost. Here’s a table detailing those prices as compared with eSmart:
|Deluxe: $39.99||Plus: $27||Classic: $17||Deluxe: $34.99||Basic: $19.95|
|Premier: $59.99||Freelancer: $39||Premium: $35||Premium: $54.99||Deluxe: $34.95|
|Self-employed: $89.99||Premium: $51||Self-employed: $55||Self-Employed: $74.99||Premium: $44.95|
Based on our research of pricing, we believe that eSmart offers good value for all of their tiers, including the Premium package, which is cheaper than all of the sites we reviewed.
Using eSmartTax.com: What to Consider
We read through some user experiences with eSmart and discovered that the site uses the self-guided system.
This means that the site will do very little in the way of helping you through your return or automating certain parts of it. You’ll move from section to section on your own, choosing which forms and schedules you want to fill out and which ones you don’t want to complete.
To put this in context, TurboTax gives you the choice of having a self-guided return or a guided return in which they make suggestions and steer you to the right forms.
Our Final Thoughts About eSmart Tax: Pros and Cons
Our research has revealed some clear strengths and weaknesses.
On the plus side, we believe that the site provides tremendous value for the price. Their premium package covers a pretty exhaustive list of deductions and credits.
In addition to this, the site has the reputation advantage; it has a national tax chain backing it. This is the kind of thing that could give you more peace of mind if you’re new to filing taxes online.
The downside to this site is that there’s a limited amount of guidance provided as you do your taxes. Unlike TurboTax, you won’t be walked through your taxes; you’ll have to decide which forms to fill out. You won’t be completely on your own, though.
eSmart features a sidebar that includes a live support chat and a “Common Questions” search tool. We tried this feature out and found that It’s best to keep your search as simple as possible. Instead of typing, “What is the adoption credit,” just search “adoption credit.”
Despite this help, it may be a little intimidating to navigate all the different forms and schedules that your tax situation may require. It’s easy to make mistakes on your taxes.
If you feel like you need to use a site that gives you direction and guided help, TurboTax may be a good fit. You’ll pay about $45.00 more for their top-tier package, but if that’s the best fit for you and you want to stick with online software instead of an accountant, it’s a strong choice.