PROS / eSmart provides free chat support to all customers.
CONS / This service doesn’t provide telephone support.
VERDICT / If you are comfortable with preparing your own returns, eSmart can provide you with low-cost e-filing options. However, if you need extensive assistance, you may want to consider a higher-ranked service.
Editor's Note: eSmart is a Liberty Tax product. Please refer to our review of Liberty Tax for more information.
Editor's Note: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports that the latest tax forms for the 2015 tax season will be released January 19, 2016. Online tax software services will not have access to those forms until the release date. While you may be able to prepare your return in advance, you cannot e-file until the forms are released and the IRS is accepting returns. While we have performed our preliminary tests, we cannot fully test the services and rank the products until all services are available for testing. We will update our reviews through the tax season as the newest versions are released.
eSmart Tax is Liberty Tax's online tax software. Liberty Tax has more than 4,400 offices in North America, and likely many of us become aware that it is tax season again when we see Liberty Tax's Statue of Liberty mascots demonstrating their human-billboard abilities on busy street corners. In fact, there are six franchises within 10 miles of our corporate offices – they are everywhere. Liberty Tax has many years of experience in tax preparation; in fact, the company's CEO and founder, John Hewitt, helped found Jackson-Hewitt and worked with H&R Block.
The free version can manage simple things like child and dependent care credit. Basic filing status, by eSmart's definition, is for those who have dependents or itemized deductions. The Premium can manage business, real estate and investment income.
When we tested eSmart, it was able to create accurate 1040 returns with itemized deductions. The online tax preparation software can import previous year return information from TurboTax, TaxACT and H&R Block, as well as previous returns prepared on eSmart. It can also import your W-2 and 1099 forms to speed up return creation and eliminate entry errors. Although it does not include a life-events interview per se, it does have a guided interview format and can help you discover common credits and deductions easily. It also has a handy feature called Add Reminder that will let you flag an uncompleted section to remind yourself to come back to it later.
This year, eSmart has free chat support and free, unlimited tax help to Deluxe and Premium filers. Basic filers can access support for only $9.95 per topic. You can also ask questions by email, Twitter or Facebook. We asked eSmart a question via Twitter and got a response within an hour. The service has a tax help section that covers basic tax information and. maintains a comprehensive blog in the Tax Lounge hosted on the Liberty Tax website. The blog covers a wide variety of topics from new tax laws, tax ideas for families and tax commentary.
eSmart is a good addition to Liberty Tax's already popular nationwide tax service. And, like most tax services, it is usually more affordable to file online than in a franchise office. So next time you see Miss Liberty spinning signs in your hometown, consider the company's online version; it will save you money.