Tax Forms: Filing Options
There are many different ways to prepare your income tax return. Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, tax preparation can be relatively easy and stress-free if you make an effort to understand the process and your options.
Decide Which Filing Method Is Best for You
You typically have 3 tax filing options: paper filing, tax preparation software, or hiring a professional.
Paper Filing ― Even in today’s day and age of digital technology, many people still feel more secure preparing taxes with good old pen and paper. With paper filing, you are in charge of every detail from start to finish – but there is no immediate tax help available.
Tax Preparation Software ― Tax preparation software is becoming more and more popular for many reasons. Most tax preparation programs will be able to answer any questions you may have. Additionally, much of the software is built to help you take advantage of as many tax deductions and tax credits as possible.
Tax Professional ― When you hire a professional to prepare your federal income tax return, you are generally cutting out all of the “guesswork.” You can be confident that your return is accurate and that you are saving as much money as possible. The downside to this is that you will pass the control to the tax professional, and of course, you have to pay for this tax preparation service.
No matter what option you choose to prepare your taxes, one thing remains the same: you need to be organized and have the proper documents on hand.
Traditional Mail vs. Online Filing
Those who are filing a paper tax return will need to mail it to the IRS upon completion. On the other hand, if you are using tax preparation software or filing through a tax professional, electronic filing may be a better option. Tax returns that are submitted electronically are often processed faster, which means a faster tax refund for the taxpayer.
Filing Taxes Online
Filing taxes online is easier today than ever before. Believe it or not, approximately 100 million people electronically file their tax returns every year ― and this number is growing. Rather than opt for paper and pen the next time around, consider filing taxes online. Doing this can increase your efficiency and you probably find it easier to take full advantage of all tax credits and tax deductions.
If you want to file your taxes online, consider the following options:
Tax Preparation Software
No matter how simple or complex your tax return is, you can use tax software to file taxes online. Most programs offer a free option for those who have a simple return and don’t need much income tax help. If you are willing to spend a few dollars, you can upgrade to an application that offers more features, such as audit protection and email assistance. Along with this, paying a little bit of extra money also puts you in a position to file your state taxes online.
IRS Free File Program
What better way to prepare and file your taxes than directly through a program sponsored by the IRS? For those with an adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less, the IRS offers free tax online preparation and e-filing. Those who qualify for this free program can also receive help with the preparation of their tax return. The program asks simple questions and then plugs your answers into the right parts of the form. With the math being done for you, this is a quick and simple process. What if I earn more than $57,000? The IRS will still take good care of you. You can take advantage of “Free File Fillable Forms.” With these, there are no income limitations or restrictions. The main difference is that you have to fill out the tax forms yourself as opposed to relying on the system for help.
In today’s day and age, a growing number of tax professionals are opting for electronic filing on behalf of their clients. To be sure, you can ask the tax professional if they file taxes online or by paper mail before you schedule an appointment. Depending on how complicated your financial situation is (and how well you understand the tax code), a professional accountant may be beneficial for you. An accountant will be well-versed in looking for the deductions that you are eligible for, as well as making sure that all tax forms are filled out correctly. Any mistakes or errors could result in a delay of your tax refund, or worse, a tax audit.
Tax Preparation Resources
What type of tax preparation resources do you rely on throughout the year? There are various tools that can help you when organizing your taxes, as well as those that you will turn to when filing a tax return. No matter who you are, the more tax preparation resources that you can rely on, the better chance there is that you will avoid errors and achieve success.
Below is a list of basic tax preparation resources, as well as how and when you should use them:
If you have specific questions regarding your situation or the tax code in general, this is the place to turn. You can use this website to find answers at any time during the year. Of course, traffic increases in the first few months of the year when the majority of people are preparing their income tax returns. You can also download nearly any tax form from the IRS website.
Turn to a Professional
There are many tax franchises, as well as individual certified public accountants (CPAs), that can help you with everything from basic financial questions to tax preparation. This is one resource that you may want to rely on if you feel that you need outside assistance.
Over the past few years, more and more people have begun to consider software as a top notch tax preparation resource. In addition to the help that you can receive while filing your return, many software programs feature tax preparation handbooks and other resources that focus on every detail ― including how to file your tax return, corporate and business taxes, finding tax deductions, and much more.
Tax Assistance Programs
For those who are eligible, the IRS offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). Through these programs, many tax preparation resources are made available, including tax professionals who can help with the tax filing process as well as trained volunteers who are qualified to answer a variety of questions.
While there are many different ways to prepare your taxes, you should use whichever option you are most comfortable with. Utilizing some of the above tax preparation resources can help you maximize the amount your tax refund and minimize your confusion and stress.
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