I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Liberty Tax / E Smart Tax: BAD

Last year after having such a terrible go at H&R Block, I went and found a little startup site called Liberty Tax.

Their forms were a little rough, and it felt a bit like using the Chinese knock-off version of some electronic device, but they got my return submitted and I got my refund quickly.

This year it's a different story. They've re-branded, and their site is quite different, and sorry to say, it doesn't work very well.

Having spent a few years now in software development, this reeks of 'under'-development. That is, imagine your strange uncle who thinks computers are magic and wonders why they can't just make a program that will do everything. Now imagine him as a high-level manager on an e-commerce project. "Make us a real nice website, go on, I trust you can do it. For about, oh, $4,000?"

That example is true, in varying shades and flavors, all too often.

Anyway, their site has some major failings.

1. My return was rejected because "my spouse AIG information was wrong." ...well, if I had a spouse, or had filled in any of that information... yeah. Furthermore, I received an e-mail informing me the return had been rejected- not by the IRS, but by esmarttax's own internal systems. Then I received another such message. And another. And finally a form telling me I could now go and fix my return and re-submit it, by clicking the "edit" link. Except the "edit" link was not there, and even if I had, there was no spouse AIG information on my form to fix.

2. "Do you want to get your return quicker?" was a link in the closing steps of filing my return. Clicking on this link, I was forced to deduce on my own and after some confusion, was applying for an advance loan on my tax return. It walked me through several steps of seemingly unrelated information and I could not understand how any of it was connected to submitting a tax return. Finally, I decided to just go back to the beginning of the section and started over, and didn't click that link this time. This kind of poorly set-up and deceptive page-flow is not helpful for the end user. Whether intentional or not, the end result is the company misleading the customer.

3. Once my problem in #1 emerged, I contacted their support. They wrote back to me and said they had sent the issue on to their developers, and that they would get back to me. It wasn't a particularly polished response, but that's ok. I don't need to know they've handed it off to their developers, but knowing that was worrisome, because I know how long things can get stuck in the queue. In the time I wait for them to a.) get around to looking at the issue and b.) actually return a result to me, I could have filed my taxes elsewhere and been done with it. In effect, "wrong answer" from support. I wrote back and told them to delete my tax information, and that I would file elsewhere. Well, they deleted my entire account, and never notified me that they had done anything. And thus, this, their 'thank you' from me.

In closing, some hints for esmarttax:

When your customers have a problem, even if they are angry at you (and chances are they will be- confusing forms AND money are involved), you've got to keep it together and deliver them a useful, timely answer.

When you put together a website as complicated as this, you have to test it. Proper testing requires trained QA staff and it is time consuming, and very expensive (no, the developers should not be testing their own work). Myself, I wouldn't touch testing a tax-return website with a ten foot pole- waaay too many possible paths through the system and things you need to know about the ins-and-outs of the different forms to properly test such a website.

And last, you have to give a crap about your customer. The lack of a decent website shows you just cared about getting something out there and probably making some money off of it, and the lack of decent support is another way to show you don't care. Better luck next time around.

PS: to the poor person paid to scour the internet and post snappy replies to complainey blog posts, I would advise you have your ducks in a line before leaving a comment here. I will approve your post, and I will hastily dress you down for all the world to see. So, speak at your own risk. I am the customer, and I am always right. If you'd like, instead, to send me a check for the time, effort and frustration you have already caused me, that would be great. The consultation rate for the kind of work I do is around $120 an hour, so, that's an hour for filling my forms in, an hour dealing with support, and an hour writing this. $360, please.

PPS: Yes, I know I am using a free file website. If your free section is a piece of junk and support is poor, then it kind of follows that 'pay' part of your site is a piece of junk and the support there is also poor, no? So. If I ever was going to pay for something, your 'teaser' isn't particularly inviting, is it?


At March 30, 2009 12:57 PM, Blogger brendan said...

yo I just had my first run-in with esmart-taxes yesterday. That website is a pile of crap. The interface is confusing and slow. The FAQ's don't help at all. It took me way longer than it's ever taken me before to do my taxes through esmart. And now I keep getting emails saying:

Dear eSmart Tax customer,

The system error in your return has been corrected. Please go to eSmart Tax and log into your account. Click on the Revise link next to your return and resubmit your return for processing. You MUST resubmit your return in order for it to be processed by the IRS. We thank you for your patience and for choosing eSmart Tax.

So I have to go back to their crappy site and not just hit "sumbit" again but actually review EVERY SINGLE PAGE OF MY RETURN and hit "next" after each one in order to get to the final page which says "submit". And then a few hours later I get the same damn email message saying:

Dear eSmart Tax customer,

The system error in your return has been corrected. Please go to eSmart Tax and log into your account. Click on the Revise link next to your return and resubmit your return for processing. You MUST resubmit your return in order for it to be processed by the IRS. We thank you for your patience and for choosing eSmart Tax.

I think I am going to go insane.

At March 30, 2009 9:01 PM, Blogger Will Von Wizzlepig said...

Thanks for the comment, Brendan.

I like to know that I am not the only person being complainey.

I think you will probably stop hearing from them in a week or two, that's about when my messages stopped coming about "you must", etc.

At April 20, 2009 10:11 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

ARGH! I too am having unbelievably asinine problems with eSmart tax prep software. Their website was so slow that I had to restart three times. When I finally managed to file my return it was rejected with error code 0396 indicating some problem with my bank routing number and/or account number.

I also got several annoying emails saying "the system error has been corrected, you must resubmit".
I contacted customer support outlining my problems and all they did was cut and paste the error code message as a reply!

I resubmitted and my return was rejected AGAIN! Now here's, the zinger. I did NOT resubmit a third time because I wanted to contact the IRS and my bank today (Monday.) But when I checked online at eSmart it now says my return is PROCESSING. I DID NOT RESUMBIT MY RETURN.

This suggests that someone took the liberty of resubmitting my return FOR ME! I don't even think that's legal.

After much online searching I found their contact number:

*just keep hitting numbers until you get to someone*

I hope this helps other people having the same kind of ridiculous problems with this joke of a company.

I should also point out that I used them last year and it was a great experience. But never again.
(sorry so long)

At April 20, 2009 11:20 AM, Blogger Will Von Wizzlepig said...


Well, I hope it all works out for you, Rebecca.

I ended up using yet another new company this year for my Federal, www.citizentax.com , but when I went to submit my state, they did not support Oregon.

So I went to www.freetaxusa.com, who said that they did support Oregon.

And once I had filled everything in, there was no option to just submit state. Federal, Federal and state, or the deluxe package, but no state only.

So I filled it in by hand and mailed it. Yay.

At June 29, 2009 10:02 AM, Blogger Bobbie said...

It gets even worse. I filed with eSmart tax in March. In May, after I made made several attempts to get a straight answer from them, they finally informed me that my fed and state tax returns had been filed.
Today I went to the IRS web site to inquire about my refund - no info available. I called IRS and found that hed no record of my having filed.
I am now waiting for a phone call from the eSmart office at Liberty Tax.

At March 07, 2010 9:13 AM, Blogger Will Von Wizzlepig said...

I just thought I'd update this thread- this year I filed with www.freetaxusa.com , and their site was well put together, and it worked flawlessly. I got my return without a hitch.

At January 30, 2011 7:47 AM, Blogger anna said...

@ Rebecca, THANK YOU for posting a phone number. I ran across this blog searching for just that. I am finding that when I get to the end of my returns it tell me both Fed and State have already been submitted but in My Account it shows they have not. I don't know about you, but I would rather speak live to someone than type an email. Alas, today is Sunday so I had to leave a message for a call back but I will be calling them again tomorrow during business hours. Thanks a million. Oh, and last year I had no problems with this website. The reason I used them again is so I could have my returns in one place. Just need to find out if my returns have actually been submitted so I can move on to another site. Sigh. I can't even remember now why I chose them in the first place.

At March 31, 2011 11:47 AM, Blogger greg said...

Esmart tax is by far the worst website I have ever dealt with. The customer support is a joke. The problems I had filing out the paperwork were immense. I am so frusterated its not even funny They charged me 17.95 and did nothing. Then when I wrote to ask for a refund they claimed to have no information about my payment. It's a joke. This website is terrible.

At March 31, 2011 11:55 AM, Blogger greg said...


Thank you for contacting eSmart customer support. We would like to thank
you for your loyalty to eSmart. We assure you that we are here to help you
through this process we know that doing your taxes yourself can be very
frustrating. We would like to assist you with the problem that you are
having that is causing you such frustration. Unfortunately we are not
permitted to refund you any amount, we do not see that you have made any
payments for the preparation of your return and have no payment history. We do apologize for all of the inconvenience our system may have
caused you. If you would care to elaborate more on the issue and errors you
are receiving we are more then willing to help you get through this process
Mr. XXXXX so you may file your Montana state return.

Thank you for your interest in eSmart Tax!


eSmart Customer Support

So this is the third letter I got from them, The first two were just auto replies that told me I failed to ask for help in the correct manner. This whole website is a bullshit lie and a scam. I only managed to get a real response from someone after I sent them a angry email demanding my money back.

Dear eSmart Tax customer,

Thank you for submitting your tax return with eSmart Tax. Your payment has been approved and your return(s) have been submitted to the IRS and/or State agency. Provided below are the details of your transaction.

Last Name

Social Security Number

Checking Account

Transaction Amount
MT: $17.95
Total amount: $17.95

So I paid for nothing. They never filed my state or federal taxes, They stole my money, then they had the balls to tell me they have no record of payment.

Thanks for being here for me to vent, Jack


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