Prepare and file your taxes electronically for free with eSmart Basic

File for free with this Web-based tax preparation service.

If your federal or state taxes are easy to figure out, it hardly makes sense to pay someone else simply to file your returns. One option is Liberty Tax Service's eSmart Basic Service, which offers some advantages over other e-filing options we've tried, starting with the obvious one: It's free. The Basic online filing service has other things going for it, as well, including the ability to import data from competing tax software such as TurboTax, H&R Block at Home, and TaxAct; free technical support via Chat; and free CPA support if you're audited. While eSmart offers free federal tax preparation and e-filing, it'll cost you $19.95 if you want to file your state taxes, too.

If you're not sure about eSmart or e-filing, you can also simply try it before signing up for a free account. That's what we did. The secure Web-based tool and tabbed forms include lots of information about each step and walked us through the entire preparation and filing process with interview-style "yes-or-no" questions. We added our Personal, Employment, and Miscellaneous data as well as Filing Options. Clicking Help Me Decide opened pop-us with further details about each step, such as choosing a filing status. The program won't let you leave anything out if you should skip a step. Of course, if you have last year's taxes handy, you can simply import them into eSmart Basic and update your information if necessary.

We found eSmart's Basic service to be easy to understand and navigate, with plenty of help available where you need it. We were impressed with the depth of state-related information, too. Everything we saw suggests that eSmart Basic can handle the job of e-filing your taxes when you're ready to send them in.

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