Monday, February 6, 2012
Many years ago, when my husband and I had only two little girls (ages 2 and 3), I remember him going to H & R Block to get our taxes done. He brought the paperwork home for me to sign. I don't know what made me really read it over this time. Perhaps money was extra tight and I resented the high fee it cost to have them prepared? Well, I told him I could probably do the taxes next year. He thought that would be fine.
I went on a quest to study income taxes. I ordered forms and publications from the IRS and just learned as much as I could. By the time our third child was born, I had become a certified tax professional and was a member of a national tax organization. I actually enjoyed taxation and loved doing our own, and the returns of others.
This became a very small home business over the years. Each year, my husband would bring home paperwork from co-workers for me to do their taxes. I also did returns of family and friends.
Two years ago, I got very tired of all the work. Sometimes when you know too much, too much is expected! (smiles) After 17 years, I no longer wanted to be a public tax professional. So I "retired." Last year was a new one for me. I had to find a way to file our taxes online, like a regular person. It was a tremendous adjustment, that I didn't particularly like. But I am getting used to it.
I went to the IRS website and found a company that offered free online tax preparation. I chose H and R Block and that worked well. However, this year, I tried to go back there but found the experience a little harder to deal with. As I began entering data into their software, things kept popping up saying there would be an additional fee. This included things like:
1. To have last year's information come up. (I think this was $19.99) I chose to do it manually for no additional fee, but was annoyed.
2. When it came time to fill in our income, and the system learned we had self-employed income (like we do every single year), it actually required an additional $19.99. We were not charged this last year, so I abandoned the return and found a different company.
We ended up using TaxAct (which we found through the IRS website). This worked perfectly and I even liked their process far better than H & R Block, because it was quicker and easier. There were also no additional fees involved.
As far as I know, each company allows you to do your Federal return for FREE, but charges something like $14.95 to do your state return, which is perfectly reasonable.
Some advice for doing your own taxes online:
1. Gather all you documents together (mortgage interest payments, W-2, self employed income data, last year's tax return, etc.)
2. Have a paper and pen for notes and a calculator handy, just in case.
3. If you want to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account (the fastest way to get your money), have your savings or checking account number handy. Always triple check your numbers when you enter them in the software. You will need both the routing transit number and your bank account number.
4. Make sure your printer works and print 2 copies of your return. These are for your own files and it's good to have a back-up copy. Of course, since you are e-filing, you won't need to mail these in, but it's good to have them on hand.
5. Sign and date them right away, so you don't forget.
This post is part of The Christian Home Magazine in the Financial category. To see more articles in different aspects of Home life, please visit the latest issue, hosted at Day by Day in our World.
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