Choosing the Right Tax Filing Software for You
The dreaded tax season is upon us, but before you throw your hands up in utter dismay, choose a tax filing program that makes this annual task relatively painless and quick. Whether you download software, use an online program or file off your iPhone, your chosen program should guide you through each step, advise you of all possible deductions and get you the largest possible return.
Should You File Your Own Taxes?
You might worry that you're not qualified to prepare your own tax return, or that doing so is an automatic flag for an IRS audit. Those with very complex returns or a deep-seated phobia of numbers and math are probably best served by using a tax professional’s services. Most people, however, can safely file their own taxes.
You might think twice about preparing your own return if:
- You have considerable stock market investments
- You own a small business or are self-employed
- You receive income from multiple sources
- You received a large inheritance, royalties or bought/sold real estate during the tax year
- You feel extremely anxious about preparing your own return or working with numbers
Do You Want a Free Program?
If your tax return mostly involves basics like a W-2, mortgage deduction, typical charitable donations and standard deductions, or you have a more complicated return that you are still comfortable handling yourself, you can take advantage of TaxAct’s free edition. This online program guides you through every step of the filing process and guarantees 100 percent accuracy and the maximum tax refund.
If you have questions, you can search the extensive answer center and video tutorials for help; email tax specialists for free; or phone in to speak personally with a tax specialist for $7.95, which covers assistance for the entire year. Filing your federal return electronically is free. Electronic filing of your state return costs just $14.95. TaxAct can import your previous year’s tax data from PDF files prepared by most other tax programs.
Are You Self-Employed?
Taxes are more complicated for those who work for themselves. If you:
- Are a sole-proprietor
- Are a single-member LLC
- Work as a consultant
- Are a freelancer who receives a 1099
- Work a side job along with regular employment
- Prepare W-2 or 1099-MISC forms
... and want to file your own taxes, you need a program that combines business and personal taxes for the easiest process. TurboTax Home & Business Federal plus State covers everything your small business is likely to encounter, guiding you through extensive listings of potential small-business write-offs and deductions. You’ll receive guidance on deductions for vehicle use, office supplies, overhead, depreciation, business start-up costs and more. Reduce the time spent by importing last year’s financial data to this year’s return.
If you have a question, you can receive online help in the TurboTax Live Community or check the commonly asked questions for a quick answer. In the event the IRS flags you for an audit, TurboTax will provide free guidance from a tax expert. You can choose between downloading the program for Mac or PC and buying a CD with the software for both operating systems. Federal electronic filing is included, but there is an additional charge for electronic filing of your state return.
Do You Want the Most Support?
If your taxes are more complicated, or you just want to have a little more peace of mind, choose H&R Block Best of Both. This online program offers you complete guidance every step of the way for personal taxes, plus basic business forms such as Schedule C. You’ll be prompted to enter every possible deduction and assisted with income from stocks or investments. You can import your financial data from last year, and you will receive guidance and support in case you are audited.
Once your forms are completed, they will be sent to a tax professional, who will review all forms, look for additional tax breaks you might have missed, flag anything incomplete or questionable and then file the federal return electronically. Filing a state return electronically is an additional charge.
Do You Want to File with a Smartphone?
If you file a 1040EZ, you can use your iPhone or Android to file your tax return. With H&R Block’s 1040EZ app, filing your taxes is as easy as snapping a picture of your W-2, answering a few simple questions and then electronically sending both federal and state returns in for free. H&R Block guarantees the maximum refund, and your return is automatically reviewed for errors or omissions before it is filed. You can download the iPhone app from the iTunes store or visit the Android Marketplace for your Android app.
You don’t need to be a professional tax accountant or a mathematician to file your own taxes. Today’s tax filing programs make it simple for the majority of taxpayers to prepare and file taxes on their own. Just set aside a few hours of time, collect any necessary documents, let the program guide you through the forms, sign your return and file. For most people it’s that easy, and you can be comfortable knowing you will receive the maximum refund to which you are entitled.