efile.com is a low-cost online tax prep provider based near Washington, D.C.
efile.com is not to be confused with e-file.com, an unrelated competitor that offers a similar suite of services. Watch out for that hyphen! It’salso not to be confused with IRS e-File, the process by which U.S. taxpayers file electronic federal returns. If you prepare your taxes online before the IRS’s mid-April filing deadline, chances are good that you e-file, no matter which prep service you use.
efile.com is ideal for frugal filers confident enough to prepare their own taxes with minimal support. It does have some value-added features not offered by other bargain tax prep providers, such as tax expert access, pay-with-your-refund capabilities, and a price match guarantee. However, it’s not in the same league as full-service online providers like TurboTax, nor online providers with in-person arms, such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt Online.
Here’s what you need to know about efile.com’s features, advantages, drawbacks, and overall suitability
Plans, Pricing & Features
efile.com has a crisp, user-friendly prep interface that’s remarkably flexible. It looks eerily similar to 1040.com‘s tax prep interface, and while I haven’t confirmed the connection, I suspect it’s a white label solution traceable to Drake Software, the North Carolina tax prep software firm that owns 1040.com and develops professional-grade tax software for CPAs and IRS Enrolled Agents.
Once you complete the initial onboarding questions covering personal and demographic information, you can work on any section or form of your return in any order you choose. Though the interview process isn’t quite as exhaustive or novice-friendly as some full-service tax prep options, you can definitely complete your entire return – even advanced forms – without much experience. For more involved sections, such as income, you can pick and choose specific subtopics (wages, interest and dividends, business, and so on) or allow efile.com to walk you through each subtopic in order.
If you live, work, or earn income in a jurisdiction that levies state income taxes, you’ll be led straightaway into the state return interface following the completion of your federal return. efile.com auto-populates as much state return information as possible, saving time and effort on your part. When you’ve finished with the state portion, you’ll have an opportunity to review everything you’ve done before submitting. efile.com’s software checks your entries for accuracy and flags inconsistent or potentially inaccurate responses.
Free Basic (3 Zeros)
This plan includes your federal return and unlimited state returns at no charge. The unlimited state returns deal is technically time-limited and requires a promo code at checkout: “1FreeSt”. There’s no indication that efile.com plans to discontinue the deal, however.
The Free Basic plan is appropriate for filers with situations simple enough to fit on Form 1040EZ. Specifically, you’ll need to meet these criteria:
- Filing Status: You must be single or married filing jointly. Married couples filing separately need to upgrade.
- Income: Your taxable income can’t exceed $100,000. Acceptable sources include wage and salary income, tips, unemployment, taxable scholarships and grants, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and interest under $1,500.
- Credits and Deductions: You can’t claim any adjustments to income (deductions or credits) other than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Unacceptable deductions include the Student Loan Interest Deduction.
- Other Criteria: Some other criteria apply as well. For instance, you can’t owe wages to household employees or claim casualty or disaster losses.
The Deluxe plan costs $24.95 for your federal return (normally $39.95) and $19.95 for your state return. If you need to file more than one state return because you moved across state lines during the tax year or earned income in multiple states, those additional returns are included at no extra charge.
The Deluxe plan is appropriate for filers who can complete their returns using Form 1040A only. Specifically, filers must meet these criteria:
- Income: Your taxable income can’t exceed $100,000. Acceptable sources include wage and salary income, tips, unemployment, taxable scholarships and grants, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, interest under $1,500, retirement income (including Social Security and pensions), and capital gains.
- Credits and Deductions: You can’t itemize your deductions, but the universe of acceptable credits and non-itemized deductions is larger here than in the Free Basic plan. See efile.com’s website for a complete accounting.
- Other Criteria: Some other criteria apply as well. See efile’s website for more details.
The Premium plan costs $34.95 for your federal return (normally $49.95) and $24.95 for your state return. As with the Deluxe plan, additional state returns are included at no charge.
The Premium plan is appropriate for filers who must use Form 1040 and any relevant schedules. efile.com’s Premium plan supports virtually all tax situations, including:
- High-Income Filers. If you earned more than $100,000 during the tax year, you need to file with Premium.
- Freelancers and Independent Professionals: If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur with significant self-employment income, you may need to file Schedule C using this plan.
- Small Business Owners. If you own shares in a small business, regardless of its legal structure, you can file the appropriate forms with this plan.
- Itemized Deductions. You need to upgrade to Premium to itemize your deductions. efile.com’s software automatically determines whether you’re better off itemizing or claiming the standard deduction.
- Unreported Tips. If you had more than $20 in unreported cash tips in any given month during the tax year, you can report them here.
- Less Common Income. You can report less common types of income, such as property rental income and gambling winnings, using this plan.
efile.com has some additional features worth noting. They’re available with all three plans, though some involve additional charges.
efile.com’s Taxpert Service provides limited access to certified tax experts capable of answering complex (or not-so-complex) questions about your personal tax situation. You can ask up to two questions, in writing, of your tax expert. Pricing is as follows:
- One Question: $9.95 plus 20% off your return’s final price
- Two Questions: $17.95 plus 40% off your return’s final price
Depending on the plan you’ve chosen, the discount could render your Taxpert Service purchase a wash. However, unlike your filing fees, which you can pay with your refund (if entitled to one), the Taxpert Service fee must be paid out of pocket with a credit or debit card.
Real-Time Refund Tracker
Like most online tax prep programs, efile.com has a real-time refund tracker that shows your expected federal and state refunds or liabilities. These numbers change with each relevant entry.
efile.com has an extensive DIY help database stocked with common topics related to its tax prep software, tax preparation in general, tax filing, and U.S. tax law. It’s adequate to answer most straightforward questions that arise during the tax prep process, though its heavier tax topics may be confusing for those not well-versed in tax law.
efile.com offers nonexpert customer support at no charge to all filers. Customer support staffers are qualified to answer basic technical questions about efile.com’s software, the IRS e-filing process, and general return-related issues, but they can’t dispense tax advice. Emailed queries generally produce a response within one business day. The chat feature is available during extended business hours.
Pay With Your Refund
You can pay your prep fees with your federal refund, provided it’s large enough to cover the cost. There’s a one-time charge of $24.95 associated with this service, subject to change.
efile.com offers complimentary audit assistance with all plans, including the free plan. This isn’t full-blown audit representation, which some online tax prep providers and most human accountants offer for an additional fee. Rather, efile.com’s team can help you evaluate IRS notices and respond appropriately.
Maximum Refund Guarantee
Like most online tax prep software providers, efile.com offers a maximum refund guarantee. If an identical return prepared with a competitor nets you a larger refund or lower tax liability, efile.com may reimburse your prep fees and pay you $100 extra. Be aware that the window to take advantage of this guarantee is pretty limited – you need to contact efile.com in writing no later than 60 days after the IRS accepts your e-filed return.
efile.com’s accuracy guarantee is straightforward: If “you have to pay a penalty fee to the IRS or a State Tax Agency due to an efile.com tax calculation error, efile.com will pay the penalty and interest for you.”
Lowest Price Guarantee
efile.com offers to “meet and beat” any competitor’s price on plans with identical features and services. The amount by which efile.com is willing to beat any price isn’t spelled out, so it’s likely a case-by-case determination. This offer comes with serious caveats – for instance, efile.com makes the final decision about what constitutes equivalent services and reserves the right to factor in such features as its pay-with-your-refund pricing, which it claims is the lowest around.
1. Free Basic Plan Is Totally Free
efile.com’s free plan is actually 100% free. If you can complete your taxes using Form 1040EZ only, you won’t pay a cent to prepare and file them with efile.com. This is a big advantage over “free-lite” plans, which charge extra for state returns.
2. State Return Pricing Includes Unlimited State Returns
efile.com charges a single fee for your state tax filing, no matter how many state returns you need to prepare. If you moved across state lines during the tax year or earned income in another state (for instance, from a business or interstate commute), your state prep fees won’t multiply.
3. Higher-Priced Plans Cheap by Industry Benchmarks
efile.com’s highest-priced plan costs $34.95 for your federal return (normally $49.95) and $24.95 for unlimited state returns. That’s far less than full-service providers like TurboTax and “discount” options like TaxAct alike. Though efile.com isn’t the lowest-priced tax prep product around – that distinction goes to FreeTaxUSA, among others – it definitely offers above-average value.
4. Can Pay Prep Fees With Your Federal Refund
efile.com lets you pay your tax prep fees with your federal refund, as long as your expected refund is large enough to cover the fees and processing charge. The $24.95 processing charge is lower than some competitors’ fees. TurboTax and H&R Block both charge close to $40 to pay with your refund, regardless of your plan or add-ons.
5. Tax Expert Access Available for a Fee
Unlike many bargain online tax software providers, efile.com has qualified tax experts on staff. If you have a complicated question about your tax situation, you can reach out to them with up to two questions for a reasonable fee: no more than $17.95. With the 20% to 40% filing fee discount added in, this so-called Taxpert Service is basically a wash.
1. Free and Deluxe Plans Built for Simple Tax Situations Only
efile.com’s two lower-priced plans aren’t designed for complicated tax situations. In fact, they’re only appropriate for filers who can complete their taxes using Form 1040EZ and 1040A. If you’re among the millions of U.S. taxpayers for whom those basic forms are inadequate, you’ll need to upgrade to Premium – a roughly $60 expense, assuming you need to file state taxes and aren’t paying prep fees with your return. Opt for a more comprehensive platform instead, such as FreeTaxUSA.
2. Limited Support Resources
efile.com’s customer support resources are pretty thin. The email-based support ticketing is rudimentary at best, and the DIY help database is a slog for folks without much tax prep experience. If you need more hand-holding, consider a full-service alternative, such as TurboTax.
3. Taxpert Service Is Limited to Two Questions
It’s nice that efile.com has tax experts on staff at all. Many bargain competitors don’t. But it’s inarguable that efile.com’s Taxpert Service isn’t as helpful as it could be. Likely due to limited human resources, efile.com doesn’t allow any single customer to ask more than two tax-related questions during a single tax season. If you need more help than that, opt for a CPA-aided software program, such as TaxHub or TurboTax Live.
4. Maximum Refund Guarantee Window Is Very Short
With a $100 bonus for successful claims, efile.com’s maximum refund guarantee is more generous than average. However, its 60-day active window is much shorter than industry-standard guarantees, which run for months following IRS acceptance. While this isn’t by itself a deal-breaker, it definitely heightens the stakes and may present a serious challenge for busy filers.
Set aside efile.com‘s confusing name and its glaring similarities with some competing platforms, notably 1040.com, and you’re left with a low-cost online tax prep program that’s suitable for millions of filers with straightforward tax situations and the confidence necessary to navigate the preparation process with minimal help.
That’s an attractive proposition, to be sure. But efile.com isn’t perfect. If your situation has any curveballs at all, you’ll probably find yourself paying for the Premium plan. And, if you’re a DIY tax prep novice, this might not be the best place to start. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself and see what you think.
Do you plan to use efile.com to prepare and file your taxes this year?