Filing your taxes doesn’t have to be a pain. There are a multitude of ways to prepare your taxes and file by the April 15 deadline—whether you plan to hire a tax preparer, use commercial software or opt for the IRS e-file option. Here’s a handy guide to help sort through the options.
As we approach the end of filing season, the best option for procrastinators is the IRS “e-file” program. “Fewer mistakes are made when you e-file, obviously, because you’re using a software program that does the math for you,” says Kay Bell, tax editor at Bankrate.com.
If your annual income is less than $60,000, you can use the IRS’s Free File option. Around 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible this free electronic filing option, the IRS says. It works with 14 software packages, including Jackson Hewitt, ezTaxReturn.com and FreeTaxUSA. Check out the IRS website before paying for a software program. “You can do a little free comparison shopping there,” Bell said.
If you make more than $60,000 a year, you can use commercial tax software to prepare and transmit your tax return through IRS-approved electronic channels. H&R Block, TaxACT and Turbo Tax are some of the most popular choices.
Another option: Go to an authorized e-file tax professional who can prepare and file your taxes for you. The IRS offers an online database for all authorized e-file providers. You can locate the nearest one here: http://1.usa.gov/1BUZK5O
When you hire a tax preparer, beware of scams. The process is like choosing a lawyer or physician, says IRS spokesperson Patricia Svarnas. “When you hand over your private personal information to a tax preparer, you really need to trust them and make sure they’re looking out for your best interests,” says Svarnas.
The IRS also offers an option for free in-person tax preparation. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers tax help free-of-charge to anyone who makes $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and taxpayers with limited English skills. The IRS works with various organizations to train certified volunteers. Find the nearest location here: http://1.usa.gov/1cuLAKU. But remember, as the April 15 deadline nears, it might be harder to get an appointment, says Svarnas.
The Old Fashioned Way
Most Americans file electronically these days. In fact, more than 91 percent of taxpayers will use electronic filing versus snail mail to deliver their federal tax return to the IRS this year, says Svarnas.
Even so, one fairly simple option is to complete your return on one of the IRS’s paper forms and mail it. Click here to find out where—and how—to file a paper tax return:http://1.usa.gov/17vfLqs