On the Internet: Tax Preparation Resources
by CI Staff
As we enter April, many are looking forward to the coming of spring. However, there is one thing that most dread even more than spring cleaning: taxes. To help you prepare for April 15, we offer several Web sites to make the process a little less painful.
Internal Revenue Service
While few would label the IRS as being helpful, the IRS Web site is a good place to start the tax preparation process. Visitors can download various IRS publications and forms; find articles on tax issues, information, services, and regulations; browse through FAQs (frequently asked questions); and find links to sites offering electronic filing options. The site uses the Portable Document Format (PDF) to make forms and articles available for download. You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to view these files, which you can download for free from the Adobe Web site (www.acrobat.com).
The IRS Web site is divided into several sections that cater to individuals, businesses, charities and non-profits, government entities, tax professionals, and retirement plans. The area for individuals provides a wide range of information geared toward personal tax filing. There are links to information on the IRS e-file (electronic filing) program and third-party tax preparers, information on the 2003 advance child tax credit, health coverage tax credit (HCTC), and earned income tax credit (EITC), as well as warnings on abusive tax shelters, tax information for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and directions for filing an individual tax return. There is also a withholding calculator to help you figure out whether your employer is withholding enough from your paycheck. Those with special filing status—farmers, foreign nationals, household employees, overseas taxpayers, or retirees—will find sections providing information, publications, and forms related to each particular situation.
The FAQs area provides answers to the more commonly asked tax-related questions. Visitors can browse FAQs by broad category—such as interest/dividends, Social Security income—or by keyword. Most answers also include links to publications and/or forms related to the question.
At the newsroom, you will find the latest news from the IRS as well as an archive of IRS news releases and fact sheets. There is also a link to hot topics, which are items of current interest such as new programs, recent guidance, or reminders. Other information in the newsroom includes an overview of the IRS, links to tax-related news and information on a state-by-state basis, and warnings regarding known tax scams.
State Tax Forms
Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA)
The FTA is an organization devoted to improving the quality of state tax administration. The site offers a wealth of information relating to state taxes, including links to state income tax forms in PDF format. Other information of note includes state tax rate tables and state structures for income, sales, and excise taxes. There are also links to the 39 states offering free tax return filing via the Internet.
SisterStates Tax Directory
Visitors to the SisterStates Web site will find links to tax forms and information for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, New York City, and U.S. territories. You can also download federal tax forms and instructions, and locate the appropriate addresses for mailing in your tax return.
Commercial Tax Sites
The 1040.com Web site provides resources for both the individual taxpayer and tax preparers. Tax preparers can create their own Web sites to promote their income tax services, allow visitors to enter their Web site and file taxes electronically, and link to the latest tax news and tax preparation sites. Taxpayers will find mailing addresses for tax returns, information on filing returns, access to state and federal tax forms, and tools for calculating tax obligations.
The CBS MarketWatch site, while probably better known for offering comprehensive investment tools and information, also has a section devoted to taxes. From the home page, click on the Personal Finance tab, then Taxes. Here you will find a library of articles related to various tax topics. You can choose from articles related to filing tips, deductions, or business taxes.
H&R Block offers three different ways to prepare and file your taxes: independently at the H&R Block Web site; with the help of an H&R Block tax professional—either through the Web or at an H&R Block office; or by downloading Blocks TaxCut software. The site offers information on tax law changes for 2003 and how they may be beneficial to you. In addition, you can obtain tax forms, receive tax tips, and access state tax information. The sites Planning & Learning section provides a number of personal finance tools and calculators related to tax planning as well as budgeting, saving, credit and debt, and paychecks.
CNBC on MSN Money
CNBC on MSN Moneys partnership with H&R Block provides visitors with information on a variety of tax-related topics. Visitors can link directly to H&R Blocks tax preparation and filing service (see above), locate and download IRS forms and publications, and download H&R Blocks TaxCut software. You can also download a free 30-day trial of GainsKeeper portfolio tracking software that tracks the cost basis of investments by lot and provides a completed Schedule D for tax filing. The software also provides a what-if tool that you can use to see the tax impact of buying or selling before actually placing a trade. Other links from the CNBC on MSN Money Web site include recent tax law changes, tools to estimate your deduction and the amount of tax you owe, and a quick research area where visitors can search for specific topics. Individuals can also send questions to the sites tax expert who posts answers through a message board.
This site offers solutions to common tax problems such as forgiveness of tax debt, surviving an audit, tax collection problems, and lowering your taxes. The Ask the Expert section is devoted to individuals with questions regarding tax collection problems.
Intuit, the maker of Quicken, offers this site as a vehicle to sell its TurboTax tax preparation and filing software. Formerly the Quicken.com Tax site, the TurboTax site allows you to purchase and download the various versions of the TurboTax software or use the TurboTax for the Web to prepare and file both state and federal income tax returns. This fee-based service walks you step-by-step through the preparation and filing process, with federal returns starting at $9.95. You can transfer your federal return information into your state return for $19.95 ($5.95 for those using the 1040EZ return). A large collection of free on-line tools helps you to estimate your taxes, calculate your paycheck withholdings and deductions, and deal with the tax implications of investing. The site also offers tax tips and information regarding return preparation, tax planning strategies, common tax errors, and state taxes.
Yahoo! Finance Tax Center
Yahoo! Finance has teamed with TurboTax for the Web to offer the Tax Center. Here visitors can link to TurboTax for the Web as well as access a variety of forms, tax tools, and educational resources. There are links to federal and state tax forms, tax calculators including a refund estimator, tax tips, a tax glossary, a tax calendar, a state tax profile, and a tax preparation checklist. The tax guide for investors provides articles covering tax-related topics such as the tax consequences of stock grants and incentive stock options, a guide to Roth IRAs, and discussions on capital gains and losses and the differences between traders and investors. The site provides tax message boards and links to Yahoo! Tax tools.