Filing taxes continues to become simpler and more convenient as increasingly powerful tools and additional resources are offered through the Internet. CI’s February 2012 Online Exclusive provided an in-depth review of the top tax preparation services. This issue of On the Internet provides additional resources for help during tax season.
Internal Revenue Service
Naturally, the Internal Revenue Service (www.irs.gov/efile.is the best place to start for tax help. The government website allows users to file a tax return and check on the status of a tax refund after you have filed. The main page provides links to common forms, such as the W-9, W-4, 1040 and W-2. Useful tools, including an interactive tax assistant, are also offered. Qualifying taxpayers can file their taxes online here for no charge. To participate in the IRS’ Free File program, visit
Most of the relevant information can be found in the Individuals section. Resources include answers to common questions, and the 1040 Central page highlights important dates, changes, forms, and services individuals should know about.
Sites for Tax Tips & Tools
1040.com offers numerous resources to help individuals with their taxes. Its federal tax guide is expansive and should cover most individual investors’ needs. A link to the guide is provided on the right-hand side of the website. The guide is divided into several sections, starting with filing basics and continuing through income, withholding, dependents, credits, deductions, refunds and payments. There is also a tax calendar and a tax tips section. The state tax area links to the tax department website for each state.
Before filing, you may want to use the federal tax return estimator to get an idea of your tax refund or liability. In addition, the website offers several tools that will help make your life easier, including tools that help you estimate the amount of your Social Security that may be taxed and whether you should itemize or pay the standard deduction. Finally, you can access PDF versions of commonly used forms, along with instructions for each.
The site also offers tax filing for free if you meet certain requirements. Basic and deluxe tax preparation versions cost $19.95 and $39.95, respectively.
MarketWatch, a comprehensive site with free investment data and analysis, offers a section devoted to taxes. To access this area, go to the Personal Finance tab and then choose Taxes from the sub-menu. MarketWatch offers videos and articles with tips for tax preparation and discussions of tax laws.
Yahoo! Finance Taxes
Yahoo! Finance’s tax resources are found in the Personal Finance section. The area includes articles, news, and a how-to guide with tips and guidance for taxpayers.
Tax calculators help you determine tax savings, whether you should exercise stock options, the impact of inflation, the tax 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.
CompleteTax offers an extensive area with tax tips and calculators. Links to the most popular tax guides are provided, along with frequently asked questions. CompleteTax also offers an income tax estimator and a tax calendar much like those found at 1040.com. Click on All Calculators and Tools on the Tax Tips & Calculators page to load all of the calculators that the website offers.
The Tax News section discusses recent changes to tax laws and offers a number of articles covering the latest news stories about taxes.
CompleteTax also allows you to file taxes through its services online, charging $29.95 for deluxe and $39.95 for premium filings. Users can file basic returns free of charge.
TaxHelpOnline.com offers solutions to a wide range of tax questions free of charge.
Twenty-nine of the most common tax-related problems are addressed. The Ask the Expert section allows you to email 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.
TaxHelpOnline.com also offers personalized help, but it charges for the service.
Tax Preparation Services
The three tax preparation services below were reviewed in depth in the February 2012 Online Exclusive (the article can be found at www.computerizedinvesting.com). In addition to preparing your taxes, these websites offer helpful resources.
TurboTax offers a range of services, from simple through corporate tax preparation, and charges various rates depending on how complicated your tax return is.
In addition, TurboTax offers several useful calculators, such as a tax refund calculator, W-4 salary calculator and IRA retirement calculator.
The website features several tax guides and includes short “how-to” videos. Users may also browse tax guides by category. The support tab of TurboTax offers tax help for numerous tax situations.
H&R Block provides tax calculators and tips similar to those found at TurboTax.
In addition, a separate section of articles is also presented. The articles are comprehensive and provide assistance for the vast majority of tax needs. Articles are categorized into credit and deductions, rate tables and IRS and tax laws.
TaxAct offers the most inexpensive way to file taxes online. Its Tax Info tab offers an expansive section on tax guidelines and rules.
Generally speaking, TaxAct caters to people who have had some experience filing their taxes online. However, their help section is formidable and can help anyone get started. The website also provides a state resources section with contact numbers and filing deadlines for each state.