I’m all the time looking out for instruments that may also help me file my taxes shortly and precisely. So I used to be happy a couple of years again once I got here throughout eSmart Tax, a comparatively low-cost platform owned and supported by Liberty Tax. Liberty is greatest recognized for its four,000-strong community of bodily department places of work, the place filers with very advanced tax conditions and/or restricted consolation with on-line tax preparation can get their taxes executed. Liberty additionally owns and operates Liberty Tax On-line, one other on-line tax prep platform that shares a slew of eerie (however unsurprising) similarities with eSmart Tax.eSmart Tax, which recurrently makes our listing of the high free on-line tax prep companies, is just like different well-known on-line submitting choices, together with H&R Block, TurboTax, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer. However, it’s completely different sufficient – in each constructive and destructive methods – to warrant a more in-depth look.eSmart Tax has a free federal submitting choice for anybody with a comparatively easy tax scenario, in addition to paid plans that help difficult returns. General, it’s cheaper than some better-known opponents, although its plan descriptions aren’t probably the most simple.Like most of its opponents, eSmart Tax gives an accuracy assure. If you happen to’re hit with an IRS tax penalty or curiosity cost because of an eSmart Tax miscalculation or software program error, eSmart Tax reimburses you for them with out restrict. This assure doesn’t apply to state penalties or curiosity, nevertheless.Plans, Pricing & FeatureseSmart Tax makes use of an interview-style tax preparation course of. Your solutions to a logical collection of yes-or-no questions (equivalent to “Do you personal a house?”) are used to judge your tax scenario and decide what you could full your return.Relying on the way you reply these questions (and, due to this fact, the general complexity of your tax scenario), eSmart funnels you into certainly one of 4 plans, every of which is obtainable at a selected worth level and comes with a specific set of options and capabilities. In case your return requires one thing that isn’t supported by your present plan (Schedule C submitting, for instance), you may improve at any time in the course of the course of.1. FreeThe Free plan is simply acceptable for easy tax conditions that may be accomplished utilizing IRS Kind 1040EZ. Federal returns price nothing, however every state return prices $29.95.You possibly can solely take the usual deduction, and you can’t file any schedules, aside from Schedule EIC (to assert the Earned Earnings Tax Credit score).Oddly, the positioning’s residence web page signifies you may file Schedule B with this plan, however this appears to be a typo for 2 causes. One, in response to the IRS, you may solely file Schedule B with Kind 1040A or 1040 (neither of that are supported with the Free plan). And two, the positioning’s in-depth description of the Free plan doesn’t reiterate you could file Schedule B. I first observed this challenge in 2015 or 2016, so it’s perplexing that it has endured so lengthy.Its options embrace the next:Previous-12 months Importing and Storage. To hurry up the submitting course of and scale back the chance of careless errors, eSmart lets you import final 12 months’s return and robotically overlay your present return’s fields with any data that hasn’t modified, equivalent to your tackle and Social Safety quantity. eSmart helps returns imported from its platform, plus every other on-line tax preparation platform. Be aware that you must convert previous returns to PDF format earlier than importing them or the switch received’t take. Additionally, eSmart Tax shops accomplished returns and beforehand imported returns for 5 years, a helpful operate for repeat customers.Previous-12 months Entry. When you import your past-year return from one other tax preparation service, you may entry it at any time all through the tax season.Previous-12 months Return Creation and Submitting. If you could create and file a prior-year return for no matter purpose, you are able to do so with eSmart. The charge construction is similar as for current-year returns.W-2 Importing. In case your employer offers digital W-2s, you may add yours on to your eSmart account. This protects time in comparison with manually coming into all the knowledge from a paper model.Earned Earnings Tax Credit score. If you happen to’re eligible for the Earned Earnings Tax Credit score, you could file Schedule EIC, which is supported by the Free plan.Credit score and Deduction Checks. As you fill out your return, eSmart robotically checks for credit and deductions that would apply to your scenario. If it identifies one that’s probably related, you might be alerted and requested in case you want to take it. Nevertheless, you may’t take itemized deductions with the Free plan – so in case you qualify for sufficient deductions that itemizing makes extra sense than taking the usual deduction, you could improve to a minimum of the Fundamental plan.Inexpensive Care Act Types. The Free plan helps the submitting of all varieties associated to the Inexpensive Care Act. That is notably vital in case you qualify for medical health insurance subsidies beneath the ACA.Entry to Stay Chat Help. eSmart has a stay chat function that’s obtainable throughout common weekday enterprise hours outdoors of tax season (early January to mid-April) and has prolonged hours (weekends and evenings) because the submitting deadline approaches. Nevertheless, you could create an account to entry this function.Technical Help by E-mail and Social Media. If stay chat isn’t obtainable, you may electronic mail [email protected] for a response inside 72 hours. You can too contact eSmart’s customer support staff by way of Fb, Twitter, and Pinterest, although there’s no assure of a response by way of these channels.2. BasicThe Fundamental plan prices $34.95 on your federal return and $36.95 for every state return. It’s helpful for filers who must file Kind 1040, take itemized deductions (Schedule A), who’ve well being financial savings accounts, or who must file Schedule B (regardless of eSmart’s insistence you could file Schedule B with the Free plan).The Fundamental plan comes with all of the options of the Free plan, plus the next:Itemized Deductions and Schedule A Help. If you happen to – and eSmart, based mostly in your solutions to its interview questions – decide that it makes monetary sense so that you can itemize your deductions, the Fundamental plan permits it. You should use Schedule A to take action.Schedule B Help. If you happen to earned greater than $1,500 in taxable curiosity and strange dividend revenue from all sources in the course of the earlier tax 12 months, you could file Schedule B.Help for Filers With Well being Financial savings Accounts. When you’ve got a well being financial savings account, you could file IRS Kind 8889 in your federal return. eSmart makes this manner and directions obtainable with the Fundamental plan.Help for Schedule C-EZ. If you happen to earn sufficient self-employment revenue to render you accountable for self-employment tax, it’s possible you’ll must file Schedule C-EZ, an abbreviated model of Schedule C. Schedule C-EZ lets you take some enterprise deductions and credit. In response to the IRS, you’re engaged in “enterprise exercise” if the first aim is “revenue or revenue and you might be concerned within the exercise with continuity and regularity.” This describes most freelancers, sole proprietors, and unbiased consultants. Nevertheless, eSmart may also help you make a last dedication about your explicit scenario.three. DeluxeThe Deluxe plan prices $45.95 on your federal return and $36.95 for every state return. It’s supreme for self-employed filers, together with unbiased professionals and freelancers. The Deluxe plan comes with all of the options of the Fundamental plan, plus the next:Schedule C Help. If you happen to earn substantial revenue by way of qualifying “enterprise actions,” you’ll doubtless must file Schedule C. Schedule C entitles you to the complete vary of accessible enterprise deductions and credit, together with the ever-popular residence workplace deduction.four. PremiumThe Premium plan prices $59.95 on your federal return and $36.95 for every state return. With help for filers who personal rental properties and report vital capital good points revenue, it’s supreme for enterprise house owners and traders.It comes with all the advantages of the Deluxe plan, plus these options:Schedule D Help. When you’ve got capital good points revenue (or losses) from the sale of securities, actual property, or different belongings, eSmart may also help you file Schedule D and take all associated credit and deductions.Schedule E Help. If you happen to earned revenue from rental properties or pass-through entities (equivalent to S-corporations, trusts, estates, and sure sorts of partnerships), eSmart may also help you file Schedule E and take associated credit and deductions.Different Schedules. Premium gives help for different schedules which may be required in additional difficult tax conditions, together with Schedule F and Schedule Ok-1.Further FeatureseSmart Tax has another options and capabilities value noting. These can be found no matter which plan you choose:Most Refund GuaranteeLike most on-line tax submitting companies, eSmart Tax ensures that you just get the largest doable federal refund with its software program. If you happen to file an similar return with one other firm and get a bigger refund, eSmart repays your submitting charges. Nevertheless, it doesn’t say that it pays the distinction between the 2.Assist ResourceseSmart Tax has a fairly complete set of assets for its clients, together with a FAQ that covers technical and process-related points. Nevertheless, the assistance database isn’t searchable by subject key phrase – in case you don’t see your query listed, you could contact help instantly.Free Audit AssistanceAnyone who completes a return with eSmart Tax is eligible totally free audit help from a educated Liberty Tax Service skilled. This consists of assist deciphering any notices you obtain from the IRS and recommendation for making ready on your audit. If you happen to make the most of free audit help, you’re given a direct telephone quantity and electronic mail tackle to speak together with your assigned skilled extra shortly.Enhanced Audit AssistanceIf you’re involved you would possibly want extra hands-on assist in the course of the occasion of an audit, join eSmart Tax’s Enhanced Audit Help bundle for an upfront, one-time charge of $29.99. When you file, it’s too late so as to add Enhanced Audit Help on.Whereas Enhanced Audit Help doesn’t embrace formal illustration throughout your audit, it does prolong the enable you get with free audit help all through your entire course of. Till your audit is full, you may have on-demand entry to a Liberty Tax skilled who may also help you interpret and reply to requests from the IRS. After your audit, you may sit down together with your tax skilled and focus on subsequent steps, together with doable amendments to past-year returns and penalty funds.Advantages1. Federal Submitting Packages Supply Good ValuePound for pound, eSmart Tax’s federal submitting packages are extra inexpensive – with out compromising on options or help – than these of its better-known opponents. As an example, its most costly bundle (Premium) prices $59.95. TurboTax’s Self-Employed bundle, which has an identical suite of options, together with Schedule C and E help, prices as much as $119.99 for federal submitting. H&R Block’s Self-Employed bundle, additionally fairly comparable, prices as much as $104.99.2. Entry to a Community of Bodily Liberty Tax BrancheseSmart Tax is backed by the four,000-strong bodily department community of Liberty Tax Service, plus the human capital (accountants and educated tax preparers) at these places of work. These professionals can be found to reply questions in the course of the submitting course of, enable you fill out your return onsite if it turns into too overwhelming to take action on-line, and supply help and help in case you’re audited. Many different on-line tax submitting applications, together with TaxSlayer and TaxAct, don’t have places of work you could name or stroll into if an issue arises.three. Importing Capabilities Have Vastly ImprovedPrior-year variations of eSmart Tax had very restricted importing capabilities throughout all variations. You couldn’t import W-2s or past-year returns from different tax submitting companies. This downside not exists, placing eSmart on par with H&R Block and TurboTax, and forward of TaxSlayer, whose W-2 importing capabilities are severely restricted.four. Free Federal Submitting Is a PlusThough lots of eSmart’s opponents provide free federal submitting for simple tax conditions, some smaller, newer companies don’t. If you happen to can full your return utilizing Kind 1040EZ, eSmart Tax is an inexpensive choice.Disadvantages1. No Free State Submitting OptioneSmart doesn’t provide free submitting for state tax returns with any of its packages. You must pay wherever from $29.95 to $36.95 for state returns, together with your first, although you aren’t required to file one alongside together with your federal return.In response to the IRS, some state tax authorities provide free state return submitting, although you could verify together with your state to find out in case you qualify based mostly on revenue or membership in a well-liked group (equivalent to active-duty or retired army). You can too file state returns totally free utilizing TurboTax’s Free Federal or TaxAct’s Free plans, each of which help 1040EZ/A filings.2. Web site’s Assist Part Has Some Performance IssuesThe eSmart Tax web site’s general performance has considerably improved from prior tax years when it did not accommodate mandatory requests (equivalent to password modifications) with out glitching. Nevertheless, the positioning’s assist part stays sub-par, with a nonexistent search operate and really poor navigation.three. Buyer Service Isn’t as Strong or Readily Out there as Some CompetitorseSmart has a helpful stay chat function, electronic mail help, and an attentive social media staff, however its customer support is missing in some key respects. First, it might take three days to obtain an electronic mail response, which can be unacceptable if you could file your taxes shortly or are quickly approaching the submitting deadline. Staff aren’t obtainable across the clock by way of stay chat, as they’re at H&R Block. And eSmart doesn’t have a central workplace or buyer help middle reachable by telephone – you must discover and name your native Liberty Tax workplace, which is probably not open within the evenings or on weekends.four. No Refund BonusesIf you’re eager on maximizing your refund’s buying energy, eSmart is probably not the best choice. The service doesn’t provide bonuses or incentives for taking sure actions together with your refund or accepting it in a specific kind, and also you by no means get greater than the face worth of your refund. Against this, H&R Block provides as much as 5% to the overall worth of your refund if you settle for half or all of it as a present card from a number of main retailers, equivalent to Amazon and Goal.5. You Have to Improve to Entry Many Fundamental Types and ScheduleseSmart’s free submitting choice doesn’t provide entry to many mandatory IRS varieties or help for submitting any schedules. You should improve a minimum of to the Fundamental plan, and presumably pricier plans, to entry extra varieties and schedules. Against this, FreeTaxUSA gives entry to just about each obtainable IRS kind, together with these pertinent to unusual tax conditions.6. Not Very Cellular FriendlyDespite its latest web site redesign, eSmart Tax’s web site isn’t notably mobile-friendly. This can be a fairly obtrusive omission as a result of many individuals solely use cellphones or tablets for computing – together with crucial capabilities equivalent to on-line tax preparation. eSmart’s opponents are years forward of it on this regard – for example, H&R Block gives a cellular app that allows you to add paperwork to your return and verify its standing after submitting, amongst different capabilities, whereas TurboTax’s highly effective cellular app is sort of similar to its desktop submitting software program.Remaining WordThough eSmart Tax may not have the title recognition of H&R Block or TurboTax, it’s backed by Liberty Tax, a bona fide tax preparation firm. Liberty Tax seems to have mounted lots of the limitations that plagued earlier variations of eSmart Tax, suggesting that it’s absolutely invested within the product.Nevertheless, lingering performance points – notably the problem I had with one thing so simple as creating an account – left a nasty style in my mouth. With so many confirmed alternate options on the market, I’d suggest buying round earlier than deciding on eSmart, and it’s possible you’ll need to bounce ship on the first signal of hassle.For extra choices, take a look at our full listing of Prime-Rated Free On-line Tax Preparation Providers.