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Updated on Tuesday, February 16, 2016
ESmart Tax’s tax preparation software is an online tax preparation software affiliated with Liberty Tax Preparation. The software is best for filers with low to moderately complex filings who don’t want to pay for features they won’t use.
Esmart Tax’s features robust knowledge articles, streamlined deduction and credit calculators and helpful customer service for paying customers, but has significant drawbacks in user interface and the ease of importing documents.
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 especially for first time filers.
List of Tax Prep Documents
ESmart Tax then prompts users to enter basic information about themselves, their income, and how they will file. The software response time is occasionally sluggish, and some of the information proved redundant. Still, the software gets the basic information out of the way reasonably quickly.
ESmart Tax then directs users to the income portion of the software. At this point users cannot choose a guided path as is the case with some higher end softwares. Instead, users must enter relevant income types on his or her own. However, if users become confused the hyperlinks entitled “Learn More” offer helpful pointers.
Entering Income- Learn More Hyperlinks are helpful
Users who need further help can also read the curated knowledge articles on the right hand side of the software. These short articles are especially helpful in directing users into and out of the relevant sections. If further help is required, eSmart Tax features Live Chats and email support with software specialists. For tax related questions, Deluxe and Premium package users can receive individualized tax advice from professional tax advisors via email or phone calls.
Within the income section, eSmart Tax features a direct import for W-2 forms, but the W-2 import doesn’t always work. Only people whose employers have set up an ADP Control Number or who have submitted W-2 forms to Equifax will be able to use the import feature.
Users must manually enter 1099-INT and 1099-DIV forms if they have interest bearing bank accounts or brokerage accounts.
Although manually entering forms can be cumbersome, users will appreciate the ease with which eSmart Tax completes complex calculations (like real estate depreciation, or home office deductions). Many users will also appreciate the ease with which they can move from income type to income type (or even toggle from Income to Deductions to Credits).
When a section is complete, the software automatically prompts users to move to the subsequent section before a final review.
ESmart Tax Software is priced as a mid-tier tax filing software. All tiers (except Free) offer excellent functionality for the price, but the software has a less intuitive and clunkier interface than some of the higher end competitors.
The final verdict
In general, users seeking free filing, should look past eSmart tax to a software with a lower priced state-filing fee. However, eSmart Tax offers uniquely low prices for users who require itemized deductions or users with self-employment income. The Basic and Deluxe versions are especially robust relative to competitors with tiered pricing options. However, the value from the low price comes at the cost of usability. Filers who want more answers or the ability to import forms easily need to look to different higher priced software.
Likewise, real estate investors and business owners will see low prices relative to the software’s capabilities, but the low price will come at the cost of additional time entering forms and understanding the software.
Despite the drawbacks, users with low or moderately complicated tax filings, or complex filers looking to save money over time should consider eSmart Tax for their online tax software needs.