Esmart Tax’s core strengths are its knowledge articles, streamlined deduction and credit calculators and robust customer service for paying customers.
eSmart Tax Prep Process
Before users start their tax prep, the software informs users of the types of documents that they need to collect. Although bare bones, the list proved to be a helpful guide.
List of Tax Prep Documents
ESmart Tax then prompts users to enter basic information about themselves, their income, and how they will file. Unfortunately, even for basic information, the response time seems sluggish (especially on my iPad), and some of the information proved redundant or unnecessary. I entered my address multiple times, was prompted to enter my Driver’s License Number, answered multiple questions about my filing status, and several screens loaded only one question such as the one below.
Prompts for a single question
After users enter their basic information, the software directs users to the income page. At this point users cannot choose a guided path. Users must select the relevant income types. Thankfully, the hyperlinks entitled Learn More offer helpful pointers for users who might be confused.
Confused users can also direct their attention relevant knowledge articles on the right hand side of the software. These proved helpful in guiding me back on track.
Direct links to knowledge articles
Within the income section, eSmart Tax features a direct import for W-2 forms, but the software requires users to manually enter 1099-INT and 1099-DIV.
Manually Enter 1099-INT or 1099-DIV Forms
Many business owners and real estate investors will appreciate that eSmart Tax does behind the scenes calculation for depreciation of real estate and business equipment. (However, this calculation is standard and difficult to alter based on your accounting system).
Users can move fluidly from section to section, but it’s best to complete an entire income type before moving on because eSmart Tax does not prompt users to complete an incomplete section when they move on.
When the income section is complete, users move to deduction, itemized deduction and tax credit sections before review. Like the income section, these sections feature stripped down pages that rely on self-guidance (though the Learn More hyperlinks are helpful).
The Tax Credits section is more user friendly than the other sections. Like the other sections, the interface was simple and self-guided, but the direct links explained why I did or did not qualify for certain credits made it easy to fix mistakes on previous entries, and edit relevant information.
What if I Get Confused?
ESmart Tax features helpful knowledge articles (including a robust section about Health Insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act), and a helpful hyperlinks throughout the self-guided process. Additionally, ESmart Tax features Live Chats and email support with software specialists.
The Deluxe and Premium packages include advice from professional tax advisors via email or phone which can be a huge value for users with complicated filings.
Plans and Pricing
The free federal filing edition is perfect for 1040EZ filers who want to double check their childcare deductions, earned income tax credits, and dependent care credits. However, state filing costs an additional $26.99.
Basic Edition ($14.95 for Federal + $26.99 Per State) offers the ability to itemize deductions, and file basic self-employment income and expenses.
The Deluxe Edition ($19.95 for Federal+ $26.99 Per State) offers the ability to report investment income and carryover losses, and it supports all deductions and credits calculators outside of those needed for real estate or small business ownership. This level also offers support from tax professionals.
The Premium Edition ($34.95 for Federal + $26.99 per state) offers the support of all the previous levels along with deduction and credit finders suitable for freelancers, small business owners, and rental property owners.
The Final Verdict
ESmart Tax offers unparalleled value for users who require itemized deductions and don’t need to enter many forms. Even accounting for the clunkier user interface, both the Basic and Deluxe editions offer lower prices and additional functionality relative to similar competitors with tiered options. However, the inability to import forms will cause frustration for filers with many sources of income, and such users should look elsewhere for better value.
Real estate investors and Business Owners who want to use standard accounting calculations to find deductions and credits will likely see value in the Premium edition, as long as they do not mind manually entering most of their forms.
Despite the drawbacks, users with low to moderately complicated tax filings should consider eSmart Tax as a top value choice for online tax prep software.
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