by CI Staff
Internal Revenue Service
The IRS provides a wealth of free data for taxpayers including tips, forms and publications, plus links to e-filing services. A few years ago, the IRS introduced its Free File program, which allows certain taxpayers to file their federal taxes on-line for free. Last year, 58% of taxpayers filed on-line, and this year the IRS has expanded the program to include more taxpayers and more tax services. To participate in the IRS’ Free File program, go to www.irs.gov/efile. You will find links to those services that allow you to file federal taxes on-line for free. The IRS home page gives you easy access to the most requested forms, including a W-9, W-4, and 1040. The section for Individuals includes instructions on e-filing and filling out a 1040 by hand, a discussion of recent tax changes, steps for tax rebate recovery, tips for deducting sales tax, and information on mortgage interest. Individuals can also learn about filing late, paying taxes on-line, tax relief in a disaster situation and taxpayer rights.
State Tax Forms
Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA)
The Federation of Tax Administrators offers free downloads of 2008 state tax forms. Find the forms you need by choosing your state from a U.S. map. The link takes you to your individual state’s Web site, where you can download the appropriate forms. An archive of old forms can be found at these sites also, for those needing to file a previous year’s taxes. A comparison of state tax laws and tax rates is available as well. The site has a summary of key tax issues on state ballots, a discussion of sales tax holidays and more. Finally, a link to electronic filing for state taxes can be found in the Technology/E-File area.
Commercial Tax Sites
1040.com allows you to prepare your federal and state 2008 taxes on-line. The program costs $19.95 to file a federal return using a 1040EZ or 1040A, $34.95 for a federal return using a 1040, and $14.95 for any state return. All prices include an option to e-file.
In addition, 1040.com provides regularly updated articles, information and tax tips. You can download tax forms as well as written instructions and worksheets to assist with filling out your forms by hand.
A number of calculators help you estimate tax liabilities such as capital gains and losses, real estate taxes, payroll, interest, and Social Security. Access to the site’s tax data, tools and tips is free.
For $9.95, CompleteTax allows you to prepare a 1040EZ, and for $29.95 you can prepare any tax form. Preparation of state forms cost $19.95. E-filing is free in all cases (although, not every state supports e-filing). In addition to preparation and filing services, CompleteTax offers a number of free resources for taxpayers. A federal tax guide provides answers to common tax questions, a tax calendar displays important tax-related dates and a tax glossary explains commonly used tax terms.
You can also download forms and worksheets for preparing forms by hand. The What’s New section discusses recent changes to tax laws, and the Tax News area includes a number of articles and news stories about taxes. Finally, a 2009 tax guide and a tax tips newsletter discuss important issues relating to filing 2008 taxes.
H&R Block offers brick and mortar buildings with tax preparation services as well as the ability to prepare taxes yourself using its software and on-line preparation tools. Basic and premium programs are available via the Web. H&R Block offers free on-line tax preparation for new users. Repeat users can either re-enter personal data and use the program for free or can import data from previous years for $19.95. The premium version costs $39.95 and to include state tax preparation costs an additional $29.95 for any program. The programs offer step-by-step instructions, error checks and the ability to print or e-file returns.
For those who wish to download and install software, prices range from $19.95 for a basic federal return to $79.95 for the Home & Business version. Each option includes free e-filing. Finally, you can get free tax tips and tax calculators from the site.
MarketWatch is a free, comprehensive investment Web site with a section devoted to taxes. To access this area, go to the Personal Finance tab, then choose Taxes. MarketWatch has articles and tips for tax preparation. The site devotes a page to the stimulus package that provides updates on how it may affect your finances and taxes.
Other tax sections include Get It Right, Real Estate Issues, Tax Breaks and Deductions, and More Tips. Each section contains articles, tips and resources for additional information.
Another free, comprehensive Web site, MSN Money also has a section devoted to taxes (choose “Tax” from the tabbed menu bar on the home page). The Tax Center discusses current news and laws regarding taxes. Articles are updated regularly and topics include income that is protected from taxes, tax myths, write-offs, deductions, tax shelters and how to lower your tax bill. The site has a tax message board that allows users to discuss tax issues with each other and ask a tax attorney questions.
TaxAct is another source for on-line tax preparation. The site offers a free edition for federal returns and claims there are no restrictions. The free version allows you to e-file and includes a deduction examiner and how-to videos. State returns cost $13.95 when you use the free federal version. The Deluxe edition costs $9.95 for a federal return and an additional $7 for a state return. The Deluxe version includes calculators and reporting tools as well as the ability to complete an FAFSA (student financial aid form) using the data entered. Finally, the Ultimate version costs $16.95 for both federal and state and includes guidance from tax professionals.
You can download and install the software or use it via the Web. The Tax Help & Support area provides help using TaxAct as well as tips and help with filing.
TaxHelpOnline is a free site devoted to helping taxpayers understand their rights. You can learn about forgiveness of tax debt, surviving an audit, problems with tax collection, lowering your tax bill, and protecting your business.
An Ask the Expert section allows you to E-mail questions about audits, appeals, penalties and collection to the site’s tax expert. You can also call the toll-free number listed on the site for help.
Finally, the IRS Problem Solver area offers a six-part discussion about what to do when you have an issue with the IRS. Twenty-nine specific problems are discussed in detail.
TurboTax offers downloadable software and on-line tools for tax preparation. Via the Web, you can file a 1040EZ and any simple federal return for free. The deluxe version for more complicated returns costs $29.95, the premier version for people with investments and rental properties costs $49.95, and the home & business version costs $74.95. State filing costs $25.95 with the free version and $34.95 with all others. Each version includes error-checking and free e-filing as well as varying levels of audit support.
The software ranges in cost from $29.95 for basic federal filing to $99.95 for those with small businesses. State filing costs extra and each version includes free e-filing, the ability to prepare unlimited returns, import features and error-checking.
In addition, TurboTax offers free tax tips and calculators.
Yahoo! Finance Tax Center
Yahoo! Finance’s Tax Center includes articles, news, and a how-to guide with tips and guidance for taxpayers. A number of tax calculators can help you determine tax savings, if you should exercise stock options, the impact of inflation, advantages of annuities and more. A glossary defines commonly used tax terms. A list of popular articles as well as an Expert Opinion section round out the site’s free offerings.