Before you begin your online tax research, there are a few things that I would like to stress. First, please make sure your computer’s operating system has all the latest updates. Also, make sure you have antivirus and antispyware programs installed, they are updated and that you have recently scanned your system with them to make sure it’s clean. We don’t want anyone spying on your personal finance programs. Should your system be infected, back up your finances and take care of the infection before continuing.
It’s always helpful to have some context around why we pay taxes and all the rules for filing. The Internal Revenue Service’s Web site (http://www.irs.gov/) has some great information to get you started. There’s a slew of information regarding your taxes, tax codes and (my personal favorite) a FAQ. Here are a few of the other things you’ll find on the IRS site:
- Currently on their front page there are quick links to the W-9, W-4, 1040, SS-4 and 1040-ES forms. One thing to note: in order to view some of these forms you may need to install Adobe Reader. Your web browser may prompt you to do so (it’s ok!), or if you would like to manually download it, head here. Adobe Reader is free and a good tool to have.
- Should you be a lucky one who is getting money back, there’s a “Where’s My Refund” link to track your refund.
- Also included are the federal “Free File” and “E-File” tools, which can be used by qualifying individuals or entities to file your return. A note of caution, use a secure Internet connection (like your home network) if at all possible.
If Internet-based tools are not for you or you have a slightly more complicated tax structure to report, don’t fret. For a fee you can purchase software like H&R’s “TaxCut” or Intuit’s “Turbo Tax.” I have actually used both in the past and found them very intuitive. Actually, many customers tell me they use either program too. There are different versions of the software available depending on your needs, so make sure to research the product carefully so you purchase the correct version for you.
Still scratching your head? Head to http://www.yellowpages.com and type in “tax” along with your city to find a tax professional near you to help you with your filing.
My last suggestion is to plan ahead for next year. If you have complicated finances or a small business, I would recommend tracking your expenses with an accounting program. Two popular programs are “Quickbooks,” by Intuit (who also makes Turbo Tax) (business) and Quicken (personal). Peachtree Accounting also makes a nice product for you accounting gurus.
When you use accounting software, it is much easier to visualize your cash flow. In addition, most of these programs interface with common tax-filing software, tax-forms and some versions can even be used for limited filing within themselves. I’ve also found that some accountants that you may hire use these types of programs… so if you already have all your data prepared, that’s less time on the clock for the accountant and less charges to your wallet!
I hope this information helps you navigate the Sea of Tax a little easier this year. I know in the past I have used these resources and found a few dollars owed to me. I hope you wind up being as lucky as me.
Disclaimer: All information, form references and Web site links are accurate at the time of posting this blog, but may be subject to change. Nothing substitutes for a trained an licensed tax accountant looking over your return for errors. Geek Squad, Best Buy and its employees are not liable should you use one of the aforementioned tools and find yourself facing an audit or penalty fees.