On the Internet: Tax Resources On-Line
by CI Staff
The Internet is an invaluable resource for do-it-yourself taxpayers. The sites discussed below offer tips, articles, forms and software to assist with tax preparation. Even for taxpayers that use tax professionals, the Internet can be a great resource for comparison help in choosing the right tax preparation service for the job. Unless otherwise noted, all of the sites listed below are free.
Internal Revenue Service
The IRS Web site is a great place to learn about a variety of tax situations, obtain tax forms and find answers to questions, tips and more. The IRS homepage highlights links to current tax information, as well as changes and updates to the tax code.
You can also find links to the governments Free File program, which allows qualified taxpayers to file their tax returns electronically for free. In addition to saving the government money, e-filing speeds up the return process and allows taxpayers to get money owed to them faster, especially if direct deposit is used. There are about 20 tax preparation companies that offer the free file program for qualified taxpayers. Be aware, however, that some firms only allow free e-filing if their site is accessed through the IRS Web site.
The 1040 Central area discusses important tax law changes, e-filing, commonly requested tax forms and links to more resources from the IRS.
The bulk of the site is divided into sections by type of taxpayer: individuals, businesses, charities & non-profits, government entities and other. The section for individuals provides information for employees, farmers, international taxpayers, military personnel, parents, self-employed, seniors and retirees, and students. Each area includes information on various taxpayer situations, related tax credits, printable tax forms, answers to frequently asked questions and more. Information on the alternative minimum tax is also available.
State Tax Forms
Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA)
The FTA Web site has information about filing state taxes. Links to state tax forms and free state e-filing are provided. A state tax rate comparison table and information about tax holidays and amnesty programs are on the site as well. In addition, you can find tax tips and articles, information on recent tax code changes and data about the motor fuel tax.
SisterStates Tax Directory
The SisterStates Tax Directory site claims it is a one-stop source for all state tax sites. Links to state tax forms and information for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Mariana Islands, and Guam are all on the site. There are also links to federal tax forms and mailing addresses for federal returns.
Commercial Tax Sites
1040.com provides tax tips, forms, calculators, and on-line tax preparation tools. The homepage provides the latest tax changes and news including updated information on the alternative minimum tax. Under the News & Articles heading, you can find tax articles and tax tips, including how to e-file and how to account for charitable contributions. The Federal Taxes area includes tax filing basics and information on current tax rates, withholdings, credits, dependents, deductions, payments and refunds. A tax calendar lists important filing dates. Tax forms and IRS publications can be downloaded from this section.
State tax information includes forms and links to individual state Web sites. A federal tax estimator and a variety of financial calculators (tax-related and general finance) are found under Tax Tools.
On-line tax preparation is also available at this site.
CompleteTax is a fully on-line tax preparation program that takes you through a step-by-step process. Along the way, a list of the paperwork you need to complete each section is presented. If you do not have all of your information, you can save the data youve entered for later use. A quick navigation bar helps you pick up at any point in the preparation process, and a help and support area provides technical and tax-related support.
You can fill out a federal return for $29.95 and a state return for $14.95. E-filing is free.
H&R Block is one of the more popular providers of do-it-yourself and assisted tax preparation services. To file taxes on-line, H&R Block offers a variety of options: Basic plus E-file ($14.95) for simple returns; Premium plus E-file ($19.95) for more complicated returns; Premium plus State plus E-file ($44.95) for federal and state filings; and Signature ($79.95), which includes the services of an H&R Block tax pro to read, review, sign and e-file your return. Software programs range in price from $19.95 to $69.95 depending on the level of complexity of your return, whether you want to e-file, and if you are including state return preparation.
Each version includes worry-free audit support and some include one Ask a Tax Advisor session. You can find an H&R Block office near you by entering your zip code.
In addition to tax preparation services, the H&R Block site provides tax tips, articles and calculators. Tips include discussions on tax credits, filing status, overlooked deductions and more.
MarketWatch may be better known for its stock market news and commentary, but the comprehensive Web site also offers a section dedicated to filing and preparing taxes. Found within the Personal Finance area, the Taxes section includes frequently updated articles about tax changes, important tax topics and year-end planning strategies. Tax tips include how to pay off a big bill, when children should file returns, how to write off travel expenses, gift tax rules, real estate taxes and more.
Another comprehensive Web site more widely known for current market news and data, MSN Money also has a section devoted to tax information. The Tax Center provides advice, tips and how-to articles about tax preparation. The Expert Advice area discusses tax shelters, new tax laws, avoiding an audit and other tax preparation tips. MSN Money also has some tax tools and calculators such as a tax estimator, deduction finder, paycheck analyzer, tax calendar and checklist, and glossary of commonly used tax terms. New this year are tax videos and a section called Fast Answers that gives quick answers to commonly asked tax questions. Finally, message boards allow users to discuss taxes with a tax attorney and each other.
TaxHelpOnline.com is a site that helps taxpayers understand their rights. If you find yourself in a tax crisis like an audit, TaxHelpOnline.com can provide you with helpful information. The Tax Help Now! section has tips and articles about forgiveness of debt tax, surviving an audit, tax collection problems, lowering tax bills, and protecting a business. You can also use Ask the Expert to contact a tax expert on a variety of topics (except bookkeeping and individual tax planning and preparation questions) via E-mail. Finally, you can get help solving 29 of the most common IRS problems and issues.
Similar to H&R Block, TurboTax is known for its on-line and software tax preparation services. TurboTax offers a completely free on-line version (with the ability to e-file) for anyone filing a 1040EZ. Other on-line versions include: Basic ($14.95) for simple returns, Deluxe ($29.95) for slightly complex taxes, Premier ($49.95) for reporting taxes on investments and rental properties, and Home and Business ($74.95). Software versions are similar to the on-line versions and range in price from $19.95 to $89.95.
In addition to these tax preparation programs, TurboTax offers articles and tips on tax preparation, tax calculators and tools such as a refund estimator and deduction finder.
Yahoo! Finance Tax Center
Yahoo!Finances tax section includes articles and tips on tax preparation and filing as well as a number of how-to guides and calculators. Other information on the site includes answers to the top five tax questions, a list of the most popular articles, tax videos and more. Strategic tax planning articles and tips are also available.