eSmart Tax’s tax preparation software is an online tax preparation software affiliated with Liberty Tax Preparation, and aimed at DIY tax preparers. eSmart Tax’s core strengths are its knowledge articles, streamlined deduction and credit calculators and robust customer service for paying customers.
It’s neither a low-priced leader nor a top quality software, but it offers value to real estate investors and some people who itemize.
It's important to note that the exact same software (with more ads for Liberty Tax Preparation) is available at FreeTax.com. FreeTax.com does not provide free Audit Assistance guarantees, but it is otherwise the same software with better pricing.
Here’s what you need to know in our eSmartTax Review.
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.
eSmart Tax then prompts users to enter basic information about themselves, spouses and dependents. Strictly speaking, some of the information is unnecessary. You don’t need to fill in your license ID, but you can skip this statement by clicking next.
Once you complete your basic information, you move to a self guided income section. Each software section is barebones. Experienced filers will like this feature. It gives an “At-A-Glance” look and feel that makes it easy to catch mistakes. First time users will struggle though.
The “Learn More” hyperlinks scattered throughout the software offer relevant and helpful information, but they don’t make up for poor navigation. If you’re not quite sure how to file your taxes, look for a more robust software. More confident filers will appreciate these links.
The user interface doesn’t allow for much importing. Stock traders like to import their 1099-DIV forms and Capital Gains forms, but the software isn’t setup for that.
One thing that eSmart Tax does better than most is their behind the scenes calculation for depreciation of real estate and business equipment. They use the standard depreciation schedules and do not allow you to alter the schedules. Owners who choose an accelerated depreciation schedule will struggle with Esmart Tax, and they should look elsewhere.
Once you complete the income section, you can move through deductions, credits and review before filing.
What If I Get Confused?
Confused users can direct their attention relevant knowledge articles on the right hand side of the software. eSmart Tax features helpful knowledge articles (including a robust section about Health Insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act).
They also offer helpful “Learn More” 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.
eSmart Tax Plans And Pricing
Overall, the pricing for eSmart Tax is higher than other, more robust options.
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. This is not the best option for simple filers.
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.
Each software version comes with an in person Audit Protection Assistance. The guarantee allows paying users to get help from the Liberty Tax offices if IRS audits them. It also comes with phone support from tax professionals.
Looking for a better deal? The exact same software (with more ads for Liberty Tax Preparation) is available at FreeTax.com. FreeTax.com does not provide free Audit Assistance guarantees, but it is otherwise the same software.
$0 Federal + $26.99 State
$14.95 Federal + $26.99 State
$19.95 Federal + $26.99 State
$34.95 Federal + $26.99 State
Anyone who files a 1040EZ
If you don't have investment income
Those with investment income or real estate investments
Those who are small business owners or freelancers
The Final Verdict
Anyone considering eSmart Tax should consider the free option at FreeTax.com instead of paying for the software. The Audit Assistance guarantee and phone support is the only added benefit of paying for the software.
The software itself is not a clear win for anyone. Basic filers can find better software for free (TaxAct is a great alternative). Stock traders especially should pass on eSmart tax - look at TurboTax. The inability to import forms is simply too frustrating and not worth the cost.
Some real estate investors may see value from the depreciation calculator. However, they can use the same calculator for free at FreeTax.com. With a relatively small business and real estate portfolio, I liked the bare bones interface. Those with more complexity would not like it though.
At the end of the day, the support and guarantees are only worthwhile for a few DIY tax filers. Everyone else should look to the free version, or a more robust software package to meet their needs.
The bottom line is that eSmartTax should be a pass for most filer this year. There are better options on the market. Don't believe me? Try eSmartTax here.
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