On the Internet: Tax Resources
by CI Staff
Tax Resources On-Line
For taxpayers who prepare their own taxes, the Internet is an invaluable resource providing tips, forms and software programs. The Internet can be helpful for those using a tax professional as well, offering plenty of advice on choosing the right tax preparation firm. Unless otherwise noted, these sites offer free access.
Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service offers a comprehensive Web site to help taxpayers with filing taxes. It offers tips, answers questions and provides links to related Web sites.
The home page addresses current tax issues such as how to request the telephone excise tax refund. You can find links to the Free File program, which allows taxpayers to prepare and file taxes on-line for free. The home page also contains links to the most requested forms and publicationssuch as the 1040, 1040-EZ and W-4.
The 1040 Central link takes you to a page devoted to filing the 1040 tax form. You can find out if you are eligible for various tax credits, track your refund, learn about tax law changes over the past year and read about ways to avoid tax fraud.
Additionally, the site allows you to see if you qualify for the governments Free File program, answers questions about Free File and offers links to over 20 companies offering the service. Because of the cost of processing electronic filings, the government partnered with various tax preparation services to allow qualified taxpayers to e-file federal tax returns for free. Be aware, however, that some sites let you e-file for free only if you access their Web site via the IRS Web site. Although Free File applies only to federal taxes, many states offer free e-filing as well.
Choosing Individuals from the heading bar on the home page directs you to tax information for employees, farmers, international taxpayers, military personnel, parents, the self-employed, seniors and retirees, and more. Each section provides links to frequently asked questions, appropriate tax forms, calculators and articles. You can also find out if you are eligible for special tax credits and deductions and read about changes in the law that may affect your filing.
State Tax Forms
Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA)
The FTA provides information about filing state taxes and links to free e-filing in 42 states. The site also allows you to compare state tax rates, offers tips and information about e-filing, explains the motor fuel tax, and provides recent tax news and links to individual state Web sites.
SisterStates Tax Directory
The SisterStates Tax Directory provides links to state tax forms for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, New York City and U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. You will also find links to federal tax forms, instructions and IRS mailing addresses for tax returns.
Commercial Tax Sites
1040.com provides you with a wealth of resources for federal and state tax filing. The site offers links to download common tax forms as well as filing instructions for various forms including the 1040, 1040-EZ and Schedule D. There is also a list of important upcoming tax dates on the home page with a link to a more detailed tax calendar.
You can search an archive for past state and federal tax forms, link to on-line filing, search for IRS mailing addresses or use the sites tax calculator to estimate your tax obligations.
H&R Block gives taxpayers three ways to file taxes: do it on-line yourself, do it on-line with help, or have it done for you.
The do-it-yourself option offers the companys TaxCut program, which is available in an on-line format or as desktop software. The on-line version is offered in three levels ranging in cost from $9.95 to $39.95. The software versions range in price from $19.95 to $59.95 depending on your tax needs. For a more detailed description of these products, see the Product Updates column of this issue.
If you want to prepare your taxes yourself but need assistance, the site offers H&R Blocks Signature TaxCut service for $79.95, which includes unlimited consultations with an advisor by E-mail or phone and the services of a tax professional to check and sign your return after you have prepared it. If you want your taxes prepared for you, you simply enter your zip code to find an office near you, and you are given office hours, phone numbers, directions and maps.
H&R Block is part of the federal Free File program, but you must qualify and link through the IRS Web site.
MarketWatch is a comprehensive Web site for investors that includes information about taxes along with market news, securities data, and news stories. Under the Personal Finance heading you will find a link the sites tax center. The sites Tax Guide addresses topical tax issues such as choosing the right on-line tax preparation service, making the most of tax breaks, using Free File and dealing with real estate taxes. A box with links to tax tips offers helpful advice through common tax questions and provides instructions on various types of tax filing.
MSN Moneys comprehensive Web site offers a tax section with a great deal of information. The home page of the Tax Center offers current news stories such as The Best and Worst States for Taxes, Cut Your Tax Bill Now, and a discussion of the 2006 tax law changes. The site also offers a 15-point checklist, tax estimators and other calculators and tax tips to help with preparation. There are federal and state forms available for download as well as links to various tax preparation Web sites. A deduction finder helps you make sure you are maximizing your tax deductions, and a tax calendar outlines important dates.
MSN Money is offering a free 90-day trial of the personal finance program Microsoft Money 2007 as well as a $40 rebate if you buy both Money and H&R Blocks TaxCut software.
TaxHelpOnline.com is a type of tax crisis Web site. It is devoted to helping you understand your rights as a taxpayer and attempts to help you navigate through various tax situations or problems that may arise. You can learn about forgiveness of tax debt, surviving an audit, solving collection problems, preventing tax problems, lowering your taxes and protecting your business.
An Ask the Expert section provides answers and help for taxpayers who find themselves in situations with the IRS including audits, appeals, penalties and collections. Answers are sent via E-mail and may recommend related books or refer you to other tools that the Web site offers. Ask the Expert will not offer advice or help with preparing your current taxes.
In addition to the sites signature tax preparation software, TurboTax offers information to assist with tax preparation and filing. On-line versions of TurboTax range in cost from free to $49.95. The desktop versions of TurboTax range from $19.95 to $74.95, based on your needs. For more information about the various TurboTax programs, see the Product Updates column in this issue.
A Tax Tips section offers tax help by topic (changes in the tax law, deductions, real estate, investments, businesses and e-filing) and provides a tax estimator as well. TurboTax also participates in the Free File program for qualifying taxpayers who link to the Web site via the IRS Web site.
Yahoo! Finance Tax Center
Yahoo! Finances Personal Finance area offers a section devoted to tax preparation and advice. A number of how-to guides can assist with new tax laws, using deductions to your full benefit, and avoiding an audit. The site also includes a handful of tax calculators unique to the site. For example, you can see how inflation affects your tax return, whether or not you should exercise certain stock options, and the tax advantages of annuities. Yahoo! Finance also offers a wealth of articles on tax topics, including a list of the most popular articles on the site and a glossary of important tax terms.