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      July 4, 2020

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Tax Software

  1. TurboTax
  2. E-file
  3. Tax Slayer
  4. eSmart Tax
  5. Liberty Tax
  6. Tax Act

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eSmart Tax vs Tax Act

Best Tax Software

To help you find the Best Tax Software, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of eSmart Tax and Tax Act.

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What's the best tax software for preparing your federal and state returns? In the past, many taxpayers either tried to slog through the paperwork on their own or spent huge amounts of money to hire a professional tax preparer. Of course, in today's digital age, it should come as no surprise that more than 53 million people use tax software to prepare and file their returns online.

One of the most compelling reasons to use a reputable tax software package is because of the constant changes to tax law. Figuring out what exemptions you qualify for, what income requires you to pay additional taxes, and how to claim any deductions can be challenging and also have a major impact on whether you get a big refund - or owe big time!

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Best Reviews

2020

Tax Software Reviews

3 stars
eSmart Tax

ESMART TAX

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Cost:

Simple Federal returns - Free

Basic Federal returns - $35.96+

Deluxe Federal returns - $44.76+

Premium Federal returns - $55.96+

Additional fees of $35.95 to $39.95 for State returns

eSmart Tax is owned by Liberty Tax, a well-known tax preparation service with more than 4,000 office locations throughout the United States. That means that if you need in-person help with your return and you happen to have a Liberty Tax office near you, assistance is just around the corner. That can be a big perk compared with other tax preparation software companies that have no brick-and-mortar locations for face-to-face help.

eSmart Tax offers some nice guarantees on their tax prep services. First, they guarantee 100% accuracy on their calculations: if there's a miscalculation that results in interest and/or penalty fees, eSmart Tax will cover those costs. This company also promises to deliver the biggest refund over competitor services. If any other tax software delivers a bigger refund, eSmart Tax will refund the tax prep fees.

This tax software uses an interview-based application to walk you through the steps of your return. All of the questions have simple "yes/no" answers that will determine which forms you need, and which W-2s and other statements you'll need to upload/scan.

Pricing at eSmart Tax is reasonable and competitive with other services. At the time of our most recent review, there was a 20% discount promotion in place. You can always file a simple Federal return for free with eSmart Tax, while more complicated tax situations (deductions for home ownership, small business ownership, etc.) require packages ranging from $35.96 to $55.96. Those prices reflect that 20% discount.

Those are all the positives when using eSmart Tax software. However, there were quite a few things we didn't love about this platform.

First, in order to preview how their software works, you'll have to click on the "Start for Free" button and create an account. We would prefer to see, at minimum, a walkthrough and screenshots of their software before giving them our personal information.

Also, eSmart Tax offers add-ons but doesn't disclose their pricing unless you create that account. Some of these extras include getting printed bound copies of your return, 5 years of safe-keeping on your return, and enhanced audit assistance - all of which can be purchased as an eSmart Bundle. What would you pay? Good question. Other than the enhanced audit assistance that shows a cost of $29.99, there's no easily-found details for the costs on those other features.

What if you need help with the software or your return? You'd better be comfortable with getting customer support online, because their only options are their social media channels, email, and live chat - there's no toll-free number you can use to actually speak with a customer representative.

eSmart Tax says that you can easily import information from previous years' tax returns, even if you used a different tax software program to prepare them. But, we found customer complaints describing difficulties in getting the eSmart Tax program to recognize their imported information. That's not a problem if this is your first time using any tax preparation software, but could be a huge deal-breaker if you're looking to switch from a competitor to eSmart Tax.

Finally, many online tax prep platforms offer a refund bonus of 5-10% if you opt to get your refund as a gift card to stores like Amazon or Target rather than a direct deposit or check in the mail. You won't get that at eSmart Tax.

At the end the day, there's nothing wrong with using eSmart Tax for preparing your return, and this company might be your ideal choice if you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing there's probably an in-person location near you if you get stuck. But, if you're looking for robust features, clear pricing, and the ability to talk to a representative on the phone, you'll need to choose a different tax software platform in our review.

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2 stars
Tax Act

TAX ACT

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Cost:

Simple Federal - FREE

Basic Federal - $14.95

Deluxe+ Federal - $47.95

Premier+ Federal - $57.95

Self-Employed Federal - $77.95

State Filing - $19.95 to $39.95 per state filed

Desktop software also available for purchase

At first glance, TaxAct looks like a reasonable option for tax software. While they don't offer the in-person help options that some of their competitors have, TaxAct does have a wide variety of tax prep programs that includes online and downloadable software.

Since most people opt for the online plans, here's what you can expect from TaxAct's packages:

  • Free - includes simple Federal e-filing, even if you have retirement income. Ideal for single or married people who only have W2 income. This does not allow you to import prior years' tax returns.
  • Basic+ - for $14.95, you can access the tax prep software best for filers with college expenses, child tax credits, and education expenses. You have the ability to import the prior year's return (as a PDF), and you get unlimited tax specialist support and Federal e-filing.
  • Deluxe+ - with all the features of Free and Basic, plus itemized deductions and credits like HSAs, mortgage/student loan interest, and adoption credits, Deluxe+ costs $47.95.
  • Premier+ - if you have investments, rental properties, and/or foreign bank accounts, you'll need this plan for $57.95. You get everything included in the first three packages, along with prioritized customer support that includes the ability to use screen sharing to resolve problems.
  • Self-Employed+ - if you are self-employed, an independent contractor or sole proprietor, this package helps you make sure to get the maximum tax benefit for your situation. All of the features through Premier+ are included, and TaxAct's Deduction Maximizer is a tool that can ensure that you get every deduction to which you may be entitled. This package costs $77.95

If you need to file State tax returns as well, you'll pay anywhere from $19.95 to $39.95 per state, depending on which Federal package you select.

One of the features of TaxAct that we like is the ability to use the software interface to work on any section of your return that you prefer. For example, if you want to enter details in the Life Events (Marriage/Divorce, Health Insurance, etc.) section first, then switch over to Dependents, you can. As you work through the various questions that apply to your situation, TaxAct has pop-ups that will explain to you exactly what forms you may need in order to claim deductions and receive credits, prove your income, and so forth.

TaxAct checks all of your work and lets you know if there are any potential problems with information you've entered. Red Alerts indicate that you have incomplete or inconsistent details that might prevent you from filing or trigger inquiries from the IRS. Yellow Alerts happen for potential problems or for items that you may need to take extra steps to complete your return. Finally, Green Alerts let you know where you may have opportunities for tax savings, but aren't items that would prevent you from submitting your tax return.

When it comes to refunds, TaxAct lets you choose between a check, direct deposit, or an American Express Serve Debit Account. You can also get up to a $100 bonus if you opt to get part of your refund on a gift card from popular retailers like Nike, AMC Theaters, and Groupon.

So, after all of these positive aspects of TaxAct, why would we rank them so low when compared with other tax software programs? It's all because of recent customer experiences. At the time of this review, we found dozens of complaints from the preceding month that described horrible experiences when trying to get help from TaxAct's customer support. People said that unless they tried to place their call within the first few minutes of the business day, they got messages saying that the phone lines were "full" for the rest of the day. Similar frustrations were reported with trying to get help via TaxAct's email support; some people said they waited 8 days to get a response via phone and email together, and got nothing.

It was also disappointing to see that customers who used TaxAct for nearly a decade felt that they had to abandon the platform because of all of the problems they encountered in the most recent tax year. Why would a new customer want to sign up for this service if long-term customers are switching to a different tax prep service?

We hope to see more positive comments in the future, but for now we recommend that you look to one of the better-rated tax programs in our evaluation - especially if you are new to doing your own taxes, so that you'll have access to the customer support you may need.

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Continued from above

Tax software can save you a lot of time and stress by staying up-to-date on each change made by the IRS, so that your return is accurate to the penny. But with all of the different options out there, how can you decide which tax software is right for you?

Here are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Complexity of Your Return. If you're a small business owner who owns a home and has numerous investments, your return will be much more complicated than a single person with no dependents and renting an apartment. Make sure the tax software you choose fits your situation.
  • Format. Do you need or prefer to have a tax prep program that can be downloaded to a laptop rather than used 100% online? If your internet connection is limited, you may want a program that lets you work offline all or most of the time, with options to file your return on paper as well as via e-file.
  • Live Help. If you're unsure of yourself when putting together your return, you may feel more reassured if you choose a company that offers help in real time from tax professionals. Some services give you that assistance via phone and/or live chat, while others maintain brick-and-mortar offices throughout the US that you can visit in person. Be sure to check if these services are included with the purchase of the tax software or if you'll have to pay extra for them.
  • Cost. What will you spend to prepare and file your tax return? Is it comparable to what you'd pay for tax software on a competitor site? Most services don't include state preparation and filing in their federal tax prep packages, so look for those additional fees if that applies to your situation.

TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Tax Software available today. We hope this information helps you choose the right package for your needs, so that you can file your returns accurately and easily!

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