E-file.com is an inexpensive online tax preparer and filer that is free for anyone qualified to use a 1040EZ. Those using this software to file the 1040EZ can usually finish their return in less than 15 minutes. Note that E-file.com is not the same as the IRS e-file service, which is the federal portal for filing your income taxes online. E-file.com is one of a number of companies the government has authorized to aid people in filing e-file income tax returns. E-file.com competes with similar services provided by H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxAct.
While E-file.com is less expensive than some of its competitors, it’s also a much more streamlined option that requires the user to do much more of the work themselves. In short, it is far less user-friendly than the same services provided by H&R Block and TurboTax. The price for this product is roughly comparable to TaxAct, but the customer service isn’t quite as good. Still, given its affordability and how quickly you can finish your return using this software, it’s certainly worthy of your consideration come tax time.
The E-file.com Method
When using this product to do your taxes, you’ll find that the various sections and subsections will start with a quick series of questions to clarify your particular situation. Once you’ve answered these questions, the software provides you with a list of suggested schedules and forms. If you prefer, you can skip the questions – but you should only do this if you’re sure you know which documents you need to fill out for your return. This does save a bit of time, as long as you choose the right forms.
Guarantee of Accuracy
As you might expect with any tax software company, E-file.com provides a guarantee that protects you against any errors resulting from software glitches. This means that calculation errors occurring on your return will be their responsibility – rather than yours – if you have a problem with the IRS. This particular feature of this product wasn’t very well advertised in the past, but the site as it now exists clearly states this accuracy guarantee.
There are several optional plans to choose from when using E-file.com. It’s important to note first that the price you pay for the state return covers the cost for sending returns to multiple states, regardless of how many state returns you have to file. This is something you don’t get from many other tax preparation services, since most will charge a separate fee for each individual state return.
- Free Federal Edition: This version of the software provides a free federal return, while the state return cost $19. This option is suitable for single or joint filers who either have no dependents or who have to file using additional schedules. In short, this means anyone who could use the 1040EZ form to do their taxes.
- Deluxe Plus Edition: With Deluxe Plus, the federal return can be done for $18.99, while the state return will be $19. This option works for single or joint filers who have dependents. It also works for those who can do their taxes using the 1048A form.
- Premium Edition: The third option is great for those who have a relatively complicated tax return, such as those who have income from investments, small businesses or rental properties. For federal return, this option costs $34.95, while the state return is $19.
Note: The above prices only applied if you enter a coupon code at checkout. However, this code is plastered all over the website and the interface, so you should have no trouble finding it.
All versions of E-file.com include the features listed below:
- Ability to Import Prior Returns: If used E-file.com to file your tax return in a previous year, the data from that return can be imported and used in the return you are filling out this year. However, this only applies to returns you filed using E-file.com; you can’t import returns from other tax preparation software.
- Ability to File Prior-Year Returns: If for whatever reason you did not file a return in a previous year, you can use any of the E-file.com plans to file that return now. There’s no extra charge beyond the price you initially paid for the plan you chose. Keep in mind that you can only get refunds for returns that go back three years. Beyond this, you have forfeited any claim to your refund.
- Customer Support: Customer support with E-file.com is principally provided via email and a ticketing system. To use this system, customers simply fill out a form on the site – providing a detailed description of their problem or question. This is sent off to the support staff, with customers generally receiving an email response in one business day. This customer support solution is less than ideal, especially since a phone number for support is not provided.
- Audit Support: No one wants to face the IRS alone. E-file.com provides you with the option of choosing audit assistance. There is no extra charge for this addon. After choosing this feature, if the IRS later on its the return, E-file.com will handle the interaction with the IRS for you and provide you with status updates on a regular basis.
- Help Sidebar: The interface on E-file.com provides a helpful sidebar with useful information regarding the tax topic you happen to be working on the time. It offers advice on what to do next. As you work your way through each of the forms, the sidebar will update its information to match where you happen to be. However, this advice is not always particularly useful, such as when the sidebar suggests that you should “enter your full name” or “enter your home address” – both of which are fairly obvious.
- Pay Using Your Refund: E-file.com provides you with the option of paying for your tax preparation by using your refund. This eliminates the necessity of providing credit card information up front. Note that there is a $19 fee applied to using this option.
- Very Reasonably Priced: This product is considerably cheaper than many of its competitors. In fact, over the years it’s actually gotten cheaper.
- Easy to Use: The interface for E-file.com is straightforward and easy to use. Because fewer questions are asked, you will also have to click through fewer screens than with competing products. As long as you know which forms you need, you’ll probably finish quicker than you would with TaxAct or TurboTax.
- Pay Using Your Refund: The fact that you can pay your fee at E-file.com using your tax refund is a tremendous convenience. This makes it much easier for those who would rather not – or are unable to – pay the fee up front.
- Reliable Security Measures: From the perspective of the user, E-file.com has better than average security. As compared with various competitors, the password and account requirements are quite a bit stricter. It will also timeout after 10 minutes of inactivity.
- State Returns Aren’t Free: Despite the fact that E-file.com does offer a federal free tax filing option, it does not offer this when it comes to state taxes. If you happen to live in a state that doesn’t have a state income tax, then you can use E-file.com for free. But most people will have to pay $19 to file their state taxes.
- Customer Support Is Limited: You will find that E-file.com’s customer support is somewhat limited. They do not provide access to support staff via phone, which means your only method for contacting a representative is to fill out the support ticket form. At several points in the process, the company attempts to discourage customers from contacting support.
- Limited in Complex Situations: E-file.com is not necessarily suited for filers who have complicated tax situations. Such filers would need to be sure that they could fill out the necessary forms and schedules correctly. The software provides little in the way of assistance during the tax preparation process. The basic nature of this product makes it very limited. The lack of real guidance is a major weakness with E-file.com, especially when compared to competing products.
- No File Importing: You can only import files from previous years tax returns that were produced by this software. It cannot import tax preparation files from other software or from 1099 brokerage statements. This is a significant inconvenience for those who want to bring in their tax return information from past years or those who actively trade in securities.
- Limitations on the Free Version: As limited as the program in its paid version is, the free version is even more limited. It is intended to be used for only very simple tax returns. When form 1040EZ isn’t sufficient for your complex taxes, you will want to upgrade to one of the paid versions of the software. By comparison, the free tax filing software offered by H&R Block can handle fairly complex scenarios, including itemized deductions.
So to sum up, E-file.com is a fairly new online tax preparation option that lacks the name recognition and well-established reputation of some of its more well-known competitors, such as H&R Block and TurboTax. In and of itself, being new to the market is an inherently bad, since new and innovative companies can often provide high quality, highly efficient services that the more traditional companies can’t quite manage. At the same time, these new entrants in the field often lack the resources to deal with problems or customer questions as they crop up.
Some of E-file.com’s biggest problems – such as its minimal customer support – can be attributed largely to its status as a newcomer. From the company’s point of view, all of these problems ultimately can be fixed over time. As E-file.com increases in popularity, it will mature and improve. Of course, this doesn’t really help you right now with filling out your tax return. But as long as your return is going to be relatively simple, E-file.com may be an effective solution for you this tax season.