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E-file.com Review 2021 – Low-Cost Online Tax Preparation

At a Glance
3.5 / 5
Rating

Start Your Taxes Now

E-file.com

  • CPA Involvement: No; minimal support for complex tax situations
  • Plans: Free Federal Edition — free for simple situations; Deluxe Edition — $19.49 to $25.99 for moderately complex situations; Premium Edition — $34.49 to $45.99 for small-business owners and others with complex situations
  • State Returns Included: No; $28 per state return with all plans or $21 with coupon code “25OFF”
  • Pay With Your Refund: Yes; service fee may apply
  • Audit Defense: Yes; optional representation for all plans at no additional charge
  • Mobile Capabilities: Limited (mobile-responsive website)

E-file.com is a low-cost online tax preparation software company. It offers free tax prep and filing for anyone with a simple tax situation — most of whom can complete their returns in 15 minutes or less, according to E-file.com.

E-file.com is not to be confused with IRS e-File, which is the general process of filing your federal taxes online. Nor is it to be confused with eFile.com, a nearly identically named competitor. (E-file.com’s marketing emails remind URL-typers to remember the hyphen.)

E-file.com is merely one of many private companies authorized to e-file tax returns with the federal government. Its most popular competitors include established online tax preparation companies like TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct as well as newer, leaner upstarts like Taxhub.

E-file.com Plans, Pricing, and Features

E-file.com is cheaper than full-service competitors like TurboTax and H&R Block. However, it’s very much a DIY option, without nearly the level of customer support and user-friendliness as those two established companies. Price-wise, E-file.com is a bit cheaper than TaxAct, though TaxAct has somewhat better customer support.

Since it’s affordable, fast, and relatively easy for anyone with experience preparing their own tax return to use, E-file.com deserves a closer look from anyone concerned with the size of their tax prep bill.

E-file.com has a no-frills, stripped-down tax preparation interface that takes a hybrid interview-DIY approach.

Each section and subsection begin with a short interview that asks basic questions about your life situation. Based on your answers to each batch of questions, you see a list of suggested forms and schedules.

If you’re confident you know which tax forms and schedules to fill out without answering questions about your tax situation, you can skip right to the forms — a significant timesaver as long as you know how to fill them out.

E-file.com offers three plans. Each plan’s state return pricing is good for multiple state tax returns, no matter how many you need to file. That’s an important distinction from most other tax preparation services, which charge separate fees for each state return.

Free Federal Edition

The Free Federal Edition is appropriate for single and joint filers without dependents or the need to file additional schedules.

Filing your federal tax return is free under this plan. State plans typically cost about $28, but you can get them for $21 with code “25OFF.”

Deluxe Plus Edition

Deluxe is appropriate for single and joint filers with dependents, mortgage interest, or retirement income.

The regular price for federal tax returns is $25.99, while state returns typically cost about $28. Use code “25OFF” to get them for $19.49 and $21, respectively.

Premium Edition

Premium is appropriate for people with moderate to very complex tax situations, including those with investment income, small-business income, income from self-employment, and rental property income. Use code “25OFF” to capture the promotional pricing.

The regular price for federal returns is $45.99, and state tax returns cost about $28. But you can get the federal tax return for $34.49 and the state return for $21 with the code “25OFF.”


Additional Features

While the specific features vary among plans based on how complex your tax situation is, all E-file.com plans come with the same additional features.

Accuracy and Maximum Refund Guarantees

Like many online tax software companies, E-file.com has an accuracy guarantee that protects users against calculation errors caused by software glitches. E-file.com also advertises the same maximum refund guarantee that’s common among online tax prep providers.

Prior-Year Return Importing From E-file.com

If you filed your return with E-file.com last year, you can import its information directly into your current-year return. However, you can’t import from other online tax preparation services.

Filing Prior-Year Returns

If you failed to file a return for a prior tax year, you can use one of E-file.com’s three plans to do so. There’s no additional charge for this service beyond the price of your chosen plan.

Note that you can only claim refunds going back three tax years. If you’re filing for an earlier year, you’ll forfeit any refund to which you may have been entitled.

Support Ticketing

E-file.com’s primary mode of customer support is an email-based ticketing system. To use it, you fill out a simple form on the website, provide written details about your problem, and send it to E-file.com’s staff. The system typically produces an email response within one business day.

Audit Assistance

E-file.com offers an optional audit assistance add-on at no additional charge. If you opt in to audit assistance and the IRS later audits your return, E-file.com handles all communication with the IRS on your behalf and provides regular status updates.

Help Sidebar

E-file.com’s return interface has a help sidebar with basic information about the tax topics you’re working on and basic advice about how to proceed. As you move through each form, the sidebar automatically updates to reflect your position.

However, the advice is generally quite basic and often not that helpful — for instance, when you mouse over an address field, the sidebar says something like, “Enter your home address” or “Enter your business address.”

Pay With Your Refund

E-file.com lets you pay for your tax preparation fees with your tax refund, eliminating the need to provide your credit card information for an upfront payment. It provides this service through EPS Financial, a partner company. There’s a $19 fee (subject to change) for choosing this payment method.


Advantages

Despite being very barebones, E-file.com has a lot going for it.

1. Very Competitive Pricing

E-file.com is cheaper than many competitors. It’s one of the few tax prep programs that’s grown cheaper over time. The Deluxe Plus plan’s price dropped by more than 25% from 2017 to 2019, for instance, though it’s increased slightly since.

The Free Federal Edition is available to filers with straightforward tax situations that don’t require additional schedules. And the two higher-priced versions are relatively cheap as well: $19.49 (regularly $24.99) for Deluxe Plus and $34.49 (regularly $45.99) for Premium. That’s about half the cost of comparable plans from H&R Block and as little as one-third the cost of comparable plans from TurboTax.

2. Simple, No-Frills Approach

E-file.com’s tax preparation interface is stripped down and straightforward with lots of whitespace and few extraneous features.

The filing process is also simple and straightforward. The software uses fewer questions than most competitors, so you don’t have to click through a ton of screens or answer lots of redundant questions at the start of each section.

If you know which tax forms and schedules you need to fill out (and how to complete them), you’re likely to complete your E-file.com tax return much more quickly than an identical return prepared on TurboTax or TaxAct, both of which are significantly more labor-intensive.

3. You Can Pay With Your Refund

You can pay your E-file.com tax preparation fees with your anticipated tax refund if you’re eligible to receive one. That’s a nice perk for those who don’t want to (or otherwise cannot) pay upfront.

4. Tight Security Practices

E-file.com has above-average security, at least from the user’s perspective. The account and password requirements are stricter than many competitors’. I actually wasn’t able to use my default tax prep software username to create an E-file.com account because it didn’t have enough characters, and I had to cycle through several attempts to create a random password.

Also, E-file.com times out after approximately 10 minutes.


Disadvantages

While E-file.com has a lot going for it when it comes to experienced tax preparers, there are some drawbacks.

1. No Free State Returns

Budget-friendly branding aside, E-file.com doesn’t offer a 100% free filing option for customers who have to file state taxes, even if they qualify for the free federal return.

If you have a simple tax situation and live in a state without state income taxes, such as Nevada or Florida, you can use E-file.com for free. But the majority of E-file.com users must pay to file state taxes.

But if you earned income in more than one state, at least you don’t have to pay for multiple state returns.

2. Minimal Customer Support

E-file.com’s customer support infrastructure is minimal. There’s no way to get in touch with E-file.com staff by phone, and the only means of contacting a human helper at all is to fill out a rather basic support ticket.

At multiple points during the ticketing process, E-file.com directs users to specific frequently asked questions (FAQs) or knowledge base topics, not-so-subtly discouraging human contact. And on the ticketing system’s initial intake form, E-file.com advises customers to contact the IRS (going so far as to provide its phone number) with “specific questions.”

Most larger competitors, including TurboTax, H&R Block, and Jackson Hewitt Online, have human phone support (and in H&R Block’s and Jackson Hewitt’s cases, in-person staff members) available to handle customer service issues. FreeTaxUSA, an even cheaper discount tax prep option, has a live chat plus email ticketing.

3. Mediocre Help System

In addition to a lack of human customer support, E-file.com has a mediocre on-site help system. Its knowledge base isn’t as comprehensive as TurboTax’s, nor does it have a user-generated question-and-answer component (which is often more helpful than canned FAQs or topics written by the tax prep company’s staff).

Though the articles in its knowledge base generally cover common topics and questions, they’re often long-winded and circuitous. I question their writers’ collective expertise.

Outside the knowledge base, E-file.com’s help content is sometimes thin and confusing. For instance, when it asked whether I wanted to file separately or jointly with my spouse, I clicked the “Help Me Decide” button. And I got a one-sentence answer — “Couples often choose this option if they have a sizable difference in income” — with no context or further explanation to help me weigh the pros and cons of each option.

4. Little to No Guidance for Complex Situations

E-file.com is not ideal for taxpayers with complex tax situations unless they’re confident they can accurately fill out the requisite tax forms and schedules. That’s because E-file.com provides very little guidance during the preparation process, either in the form of guided questions or a help sidebar.

Instead, the software asks you a series of basic questions and, using your responses, provides a list of forms to fill out. You fill out the forms field by field, just as you would if you were using pencil and paper, with no explanations to keep you within the rails.

Though the help sidebar offers one-sentence explanations of most form fields, they’re usually self-evident: “Enter your full name,” “Enter your home address.”

This lack of guidance is a pretty big oversight, as just about every other DIY online tax prep system I’ve used has at least some support for complex situations (either in question or help topic form).

5. No Importing Capabilities

You can’t import prior-year tax returns from other online tax preparers. You also can’t import tax-related files from third parties, such as 1099 statements from your brokerage.

The lack of importing from other tax prep services is a hassle for anyone who has filed a tax return in the past, and the lack of 1099 importing is a big time-waster for anyone who actively trades securities.

6. Quirky Interface

E-file.com’s tax prep interface is pretty basic. That’s not necessarily bad, as the system lacks superfluous colors and content that might distract or confuse some users. However, it does have some strange quirks that can influence — and in some cases impede — the user experience.

For example, when it prompts you to select your birth date and you click in the appropriate text field, a little month-by-month calendar pops up — similar to the calendars on online travel booking platforms. But the calendar defaults to the current year, which is absurd (infants don’t file their own taxes). There’s a small drop-down menu that lets you adjust the year and eventually select the correct date, but it’s not displayed very prominently and takes a second or two to find.

7. Free Version Is Very Limited

E-file.com’s free version works for very straightforward tax situations only. If your taxes are too complicated for the free version to handle, you need to upgrade to at least Deluxe Plus. H&R Block’s free version can handle significantly more complex situations, including those involving itemized deductions.


Final Word

Unlike better-known competitors like TurboTax and H&R Block, E-file.com is a relatively new online tax prep service without name recognition or much of an established reputation. That isn’t necessarily bad, as new companies can often offer service quality or overall value that established companies can’t match.

But new companies also tend to have fewer resources to handle unforeseen problems or address customer concerns as they arise. Many of E-file.com’s drawbacks, particularly its noticeable lack of support resources, can ultimately be traced back to its lean structure and newcomer status.

The good news is these problems are fixable. As E-file.com gains traction in the marketplace, it’s likely to grow and mature. But it can’t get to that point without buy-in from early adopters in search of cheap, accurate online tax preparation services.

For more options, check out our full list of top-rated free online tax preparation services.

Verdict
3.5 / 5
Rating

Start Your Taxes Now

E-file.com

E-file.com is affordable and simple. However, it lacks all but the most basic support.

For experienced DIY tax preppers who either don’t have complicated situations or have enough tax knowledge to get through their returns independently, the lack of support isn’t a deal breaker. But less experienced filers — particularly those who need to file multiple schedules — should think twice. There are plenty more user-friendly and supportive alternatives out there.

Affordable pricing, a straightforward interface, a quick preparation process, and the ability to pay with your refund are all nice. Limited onsite support, virtually nonexistent human support, and strange website quirks all hurt.

Overall, E-file.com is fine for experienced filers who know what they’re doing and want to finish in a hurry (assuming they don’t have tons of securities transactions to enter). But it’s not the best choice for everyone else.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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