Tax Preparation Software
One alternative to preparing your taxes yourself, or to hiring professionals to prepare your taxes for you is to use tax preparation software. Many software developers have published computer programs that make quick work of preparing and filing your taxes. Picking the right program can be a bit difficult, however, as there are so many choices to select from. Below, find a list of the more popular available choices:
- Tax Act for the Web. The off-line version of this software is cumbersome and slow but the web-based version is easy to use. The price is competitive and preparation is straightforward.
- SnapTax: This is a web-based program that can help you complete the 1040A and 1040EZ as well as state forms. This package is a good choice if these are the forms you want to file with. However, the program is not as fast to complete as the name suggests.
- TaxAct Deluxe: This program also comes in web-based and computer-based versions. The web version is significantly slower than the computer-based counterpart. This software does not have as many features as Turbo Tax Premier (described below) but is still a good value.
- TurboTax Premier: This package comes closest to having a tax professional do your taxes. Addressing complex tax issues is relatively easy. Premier is the top-of-the-line product from Intuit, makers of Quicken personal finance software. The premier edition features financial planning tools not available in the standard version and is highly recommended.
It is no longer necessary to file many tax forms manually by sending paper returns to the government. Instead, the forms can be prepared electronically, and submitted via the Internet over a secure connection. This method of filing is called e-filing, and it is more convenient, more secure, and faster than paper filing. In addition to these benefits, e-filing offers you a confirmation that your tax return has been received by the IRS. If there is a problem with your return, you will receive a rejection notice within 24 hours of submitting your tax return. This notice will indicate what errors there are in your return so you can correct them and resubmit. Although e-filing is, in many ways, a better method for filing taxes than the older paper method, not everyone can file electronically. Filers who meet any of the following criteria must file a paper form:
- Live in a community property state and are married but filing separately
- Are claiming a dependent who has already been claimed by someone else
- Are submitting a tax form that cannot be electronically filed (ire., multiple support agreement)
- Filing before January 15 or after October 15
Filing an Extension
If you think that you may not be able to make the April 15th deadline for individual filing, be sure to file an extension. Extensions are automatic, meaning that you do not have to wait for an approval before the extension is granted. You must file form 4868 prior to the April 15th deadline however. You are responsible for paying your best estimate of any taxes you expect to be due at the time you submit form 4868. It is better to slightly overestimate your tax payment, rather than to underestimate it. If you underestimate the amount you owe, you will be penalized for not paying up fully with your extension request.