by AAII Staff
As more and more people are filing their own taxes, many turn to the wealth of online tax preparation services and Web sites. Provided you file your taxes correctly, it’s a good way to save money. Most of the resources on the Web are available for free and offer simple ways to file your taxes.
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IRS & FTA
Internal Revenue Service
The IRS provides free information for taxpayers including filing forms, calculators, links to e-filing services and tax paying tips. The IRS’ Free File program allows qualifying taxpayers to file their federal taxes online at no charge. To participate in the IRS’ Free File program, go to www.irs.gov/efile. You will find links to those services that have partnered with the IRS to file federal taxes online for free. The IRS also offers a link to Free Fillable Forms for those who want to enter information into IRA forms online without the use of a tax preparer service.
The IRS home page gives you easy access to the most requested forms for printing, including forms 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, a discussion of the first-time homebuyer credit, tips for deducting sales tax, and information on mortgage interest. An AMT Assistant helps you determine whether you are subject to the alternative minimum tax. You can also learn about dealing with a tax dispute, tax relief in a disaster situation and taxpayer rights.
Federation of Tax Administrators
The Federation of Tax Administrators offers information about and links to filing state taxes. You can choose your state from a U.S. map and a link will take you to your individual state’s Web site, where you can download, and sometimes e-file, the appropriate forms. A comparison of state tax rates is available as well. Finally, a link to electronic filing for state taxes can be found in the Technology/E-File area.
Tax Tips & Preparation
1040.com allows you to prepare your federal and state 2009 taxes online. You can download forms 1040 and 1065 for 2009 or previous years for free. You can also use their Web-based program to file a federal return using a 1040EZ form for $19.95, file form 1040 or 1040A for $34.95, and file your state return for $14.95. All prices include an option to e-file.
In addition, 1040.com provides regularly updated articles about tax changes and new laws and tax tips. You can also download written instructions and worksheets to assist with filling out forms by hand. A number of calculators are provided to 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.
BankRate.com is a free site that provides information about CDs, loans, credit cards and more. The site’s tax area offers calculators, articles about new tax rules and regulations, a tax basics section and a more in-depth 2010 tax guide section.
CompleteTax is an online resource for tax preparation and filing. You can file a 1040EZ for free; file a form 1040 for $14.95; and file any tax form, account for gains and losses on the sale of investments, account for charity deductions and more for $29.95. Each choice allows for free e-filing. Preparation of state forms costs $32.95.
In addition to preparation and filing services, CompleteTax offers a number of free resources for taxpayers including: financial- and tax-related calculators, answers to common tax questions, a 2010 tax guide, a tax calendar displaying important tax-related dates, and a tax glossary that explains commonly used terms.
The Tax News section discusses recent changes to tax laws and offers articles covering the latest news stories about taxes.
H&R Block offers tax preparation services at brick and mortar office locations as well as the ability to prepare taxes yourself using its software and online preparation tools. Basic and Deluxe programs are available via the Web. H&R Block offers free online tax preparation for 1040EZs and other simple returns; however, you cannot import your data from previous year’s returns. The Basic online version includes the ability to import data from previous years for $14.95. The Deluxe online version costs $29.95 and accounts for investments, dividends, mortgages and more. State filings cost an additional $36.95. 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 are $24.95 for the Basic version and $59.95 for the Deluxe version. Both options include free federal e-filing.
Lastly, you can get free tax tips and tax calculators from the site.
MarketWatch offers free comprehensive investment data and analysis as well as a section devoted to taxes. To access this area, go to the Personal Finance tab, then choose Taxes. MarketWatch has videos and articles with tips for tax preparation and discussions of tax laws.
Another free comprehensive Web site, MSN Money has a section devoted to taxes (choose “Tax” from the tabbed menu bar on the home page). The tax area discusses auditing, preparation, tax cuts, tax shelters and advice. The site features stories with current tax news and laws. Articles are updated regularly. MSN Money also features a tax-related blog. A tax message board allows users to discuss tax issues with each other and ask a tax attorney questions.
TaxAct is another source for online tax preparation. The site offers a free edition for federal returns with no restrictions. The free version allows you to e-file and includes a deduction examiner and how-to videos. You can also import some of your tax information in PDF form.
A state return costs $14.95 when you use the free federal version. TaxAct offers an online Deluxe edition that costs $9.95 for a federal return and an additional $8 for a state return. The Deluxe version includes calculators and reporting tools as well as the ability to complete a student financial aid application using the data entered. Their online Ultimate version costs $17.95 for both federal and state and includes guidance from tax professionals.
You can download and install the software or order a CD-ROM for $12.95 (Deluxe) or $19.95 (Ultimate). The Support & Tax Help area provides aid for using TaxAct as well as tips and help with filing.
TaxHelpOnline is a free site devoted to taxpayer rights. You can read quick solutions to most common tax problems like forgiveness of debt, surviving an audit and lowering your taxes. In addition, 29 specific problems are discussed in detail.
The 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 a toll-free number for help.
TurboTax offers downloadable software and online tools for tax preparation. You can file a 1040EZ and any simple federal return for free; a Deluxe version for more complicated returns costs $29.95. The Premier version is for those with investments and rental properties and costs $49.95. The Home & Business version costs $74.95. State filing costs $27.95 with the free version and $36.95 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 $24.95 for basic federal filing to $99.95 for those with small businesses. State filing costs extra. Each software version includes free federal 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 is found under Personal Finance. The area includes articles, news, and a how-to guide with tips and guidance for taxpayers. Tax calculators 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.