On the Internet: Tax Resources
by CI Staff
The Internet is an invaluable resource for assistance with tax preparation. While some Americans seek the help of a tax professional, many will file taxes on their own. No matter which way your taxes are done, the Internet can help you make the right choices. Unless otherwise noted, access to the Web site is free.
Internal Revenue Service
You can also see if you are eligible for free e-filing through one of the many participating Web sites (“Check Out Free File”). Because it is cheaper to process electronic filings, the government partnered with tax preparation Web sites starting last year to allow taxpayers to e-file for free. Use caution, however, because some of the sites still impose restrictions based on income and other economic factors and almost all only allow you to file for free by linking to their site through the IRS Web site. This free e-filing is for federal tax returns only, although most states allow free e-filing of your state tax returns.
The IRS site offers separate sections for individuals, businesses, charities and non-profits, government entities and tax professionals, with each offering helpful hints, tips and links for easier tax preparation and filing. Individuals can learn if they qualify for certain tax shelters or credits. The site gives advice to specific groups of individual taxpayers including employees, farmers, international taxpayers, military personnel, parents, the self-employed, seniors and retirees and students. Any additional forms can be downloaded, while changes to the tax code that affect these groups are discussed in detail.
The site also allows you to track your return or find tax breaks through donations to eligible charities. Recently added or changed tax laws and regulations are posted on the site’s home page as well as a link to new articles and press releases regarding taxes. A frequently asked questions section offers helpful advice for popular tax-paying questions. You can search the FAQs by keyword or category. Links to hot tax topics, tax statistics and national facts and figures can be found on the site as well. All forms are downloaded in PDF format, which is viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader (free at www.acrobat.com).
Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA)
In addition to information for tax authorities and administrators, the FTA provides individuals with state tax comparisons, information on motor and fuel taxes, recent tax news and other important tax data and research. Links to file state taxes electronically, which is offered in 42 states, are provided as well.
SisterStates Tax Directory
The SisterStates Tax Directory offers links to state tax forms for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, New York City and U.S. territories, as well as federal tax forms, instructions and mailing addresses.
1040.com offers the latest tax news, advice and forms for individuals to successfully file their taxes. You can print and download any state tax form from the past six years or any federal tax form from the last 15 years. A tax estimator can assist in estimating your tax return or payment. The site also has links to e-file, lists important upcoming filing dates and provides necessary mailing addresses.
Although many investors use MarketWatch to stay abreast of current market news and to research current and potential investments, the site also has a section (under the “Personal Finance” heading) devoted to taxes. The site’s Tax Guide offers helpful tips and common pitfalls to avoid when filing your taxes along with up-to-date news stories and articles. Topics range from the tax impact on real estate investing to finding the right deductions.
H&R Block offers taxpayers three ways to file their 2005 taxes: on-line, in one of their brick and mortar stores with a professional, or by downloading a copy of their TaxCut software. The on-line services offered range from filing the 1040EZ on-line for $9.95, filing more complicated tax forms and receiving extra professional advice for $19.95, or paying $79.95 to have your return signed by a tax professional and receive year-round tax advice. For an in-person consultation, you can enter your zip code at the site to find a tax office near you. Downloading a copy of TaxCut ranges in cost from $9.99 to $49.99 for individuals. The site also includes tips and advice for hurricane victims, allows you to check the status of your e-file and provides reference articles and a tax glossary.
H&R Block is one of a handful of tax preparation sites that offer free federal filing for qualifying taxpayers by linking to the site through the IRS Web site.
MSN Money offers an abundance of tax advice, and resources and links to filing directly using TurboTax or TaxCut software. Federal and state forms along with IRS publications can be downloaded from the site. MSN Money also offers a free 30-day trial of GainsKeeper, a portfolio tracking software program that tracks the cost basis of investments by lot and provides a completed Schedule D for filing. A free 90-day trial of Microsoft Money, which can be used to track tax-related expenses and import data to tax preparation software, is also available on the site. The site’s tax estimator can give you an estimate of your tax payment or receipt. A tax planning center outlines current tax guidelines as well as new tax law changes. A calendar of important taxpaying dates, a glossary with frequently used tax terms and an article index round out the site’s educational offerings.
Devoted to helping taxpayers understand their rights, TaxHelpOnline can advise you about various tax situations. Learn about forgiveness of tax debt, surviving an audit, preventing tax problems, protecting your business and lowering taxes. The Ask the Expert section allows individuals to ask tax professionals questions about audits, appeals, collection notices and penalties. Questions are answered via E-mail, by reading recommended books or using other tools and links that the Web site offers. A list of 29 of the most common IRS problems can also help taxpayers sort through tax issues.
In addition to the site’s signature tax software program, TurboTax, this site offers additional data to assist with tax filings. TurboTax Online costs between $9.95 and $39.95 depending on how complicated your filings are. All versions of the software are free to try on-line and a video demo is also available. The desktop version costs between $19.95 and $69.95 and can be ordered on-line. The site’s Tax Tips section provides a tax calendar and links to download IRS publications and federal forms. Instructions about how to file electronically and how to file for an extension or an amendment are also included in this section, as well as articles on state taxes, changes in tax laws, deductions, and real estate taxes.
TurboTax also offers free federal e-filing for qualifying taxpayers through the IRS Web site.
Yahoo! Finance Tax Center
Yahoo! Finance offers links to file directly with both TurboTax and TaxACT (a free on-line e-filing service for federal taxes), as featured tax preparation partners of the site. As with most sites, state and federal tax forms can be downloaded and printed in PDF format. The site offers many tax tools for preparing filings: tax calculators, a checklist, a calendar, state tax profiles and a list of tax rates. Yahoo! Finance’s Tax Education section has tax tips relating to charitable contributions, divorce, education and tax planning. A glossary of important tax terms along with help for investors reporting capital gains and losses can be found as well.