1. Computing

eSmart Tax Income Tax Preparation Software: A First Look

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eSmart Tax Basic is free tax software.

eSmart Tax

Liberty Tax

Plain and Simple Tax Software:

Updated 1/22/2013:
Smart Tax and CompleteTax are now combined into one tax software that looks like CompleteTax. See CompleteTax / eSmart Tax 2012 Versions, Features and Prices for updated information.

I just tried eSmart Tax online tax preparation software for the first time, and while this isn't the most elegant online tax software, it is easy to use and provides decent guidance with a tax interview and good options for getting help with taxes or tech support.

eSmart Tax won the About.com Readers' Choice Award for Best Personal Tax Software of 2011.

Getting Started with eSmart Tax:

As with other online tax preparation software, you can try eSmart Tax without creating an account, however if you want to save your return you will be required to do so. eSmart Tax has a good introduction for new users which explains what tax documentation to gather and how to navigate the software.

Skip Around Your Tax Return, Or Not:

eSmart Tax uses a tax interview to complete your tax return, but you can also use the Quick Navigation feature to skip around to anywhere in your tax return, whether or not you've finished that section. I also used the top navigation buttons to skip around the tax interview, but hit a snag after I clicked on the Investments tab, entered nothing and tried to move to another part of my return. A pop-up message said I had to answer a question about having authority over a bank in a foreign country. I could not back out of this part of the return until I answered that question, which is minor but still unexpected.

eSmart Tax Help Resources:

eSmart Tax has good help resources with loads of income tax information that is presented in easy-to-understand language. It took a few more clicks to find answers to questions than it does in some other online tax software, but the tax help was not difficult to use. Free tech support is available via email, chat or on the eSmart Tax Facebook page. Tax questions can be submitted on an online form and a Liberty Tax tax professional will get back to you with an answer for $19.95.

Where eSmart Needs to Improve:

eSmart Tax needs some polish. For example, under Deductions, the Other Deductible Taxes portion requires the user to describe the taxes themselves, something I've not seen in other tax software I've reviewed. If you need help with coming up with a description for other deductible taxes, the help link isn't placed conveniently. You will need to notice the link for help with defining other deductible taxes at the top of the screen.

eSmart Tax doesn't let you know until you're into the tax interview that it does not support nonresident or part-year resident tax returns.

eSmart Tax: Bottom Line:

My first impression of eSmart Tax was better than I expected it to be, mostly because it does not get the same coverage that TurboTax and H&R Block At Home tax software do. Compared to the well-known names in tax software, eSmart Tax lacks flashy features and elegance, but the tax interview will definitely get you on your way to completing your tax return.

Going through the interview took me longer compared to other tax software, but the price for filing a return is lower than some other tax software. The help links were indeed helpful and I like the free tech support options. Since eSmart Tax is from Liberty Tax, you have the option of getting tax answers from tax pros via email, or you are invited to stop in at one of many Liberty Tax offices throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Another plus is that when you register an account at eSmart Tax, the price that is currently quoted is the price you will pay even if you file your taxes weeks from now. Other tax software may be a bit more convenient to use, but not all other tax software locks in a price, and the cost to print or eFile your return could increase without notice.

eSmart Tax offers a free Basic tax return, a Deluxe version ($29.95, $19.95 for limited time) for those who have itemized deductions and Premium ($49.95, $39.95 for limited time) for small business owners or self-employed individuals. Add a state return for $19.95 with Basic and Deluxe versions. If you use the Premium version and want to add a state return, upgrade to Premium MVP which adds the state return for under $10.

Visit eSmart Tax Website

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