Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tax Series #3: What are some easy ways to file my return?

Tax time. It rolls around every year. How are you going to get that pesky return filed? Here at Money Hip Mamas, we're here to help. There are a million different tax preparation services, so I polled my friends (many of which are tax accountants themselves) to get the scoop on the best options out there.

Do-It-Yourself Software

For A Basic Return

Taxslayer.com - My good accountant friend Nate has used this site for years. He said, "It's super user friendly for the basic return," but cautions that it may not be dynamic enough for more serious issues (e.g. carryover losses, Fed/CA differences). However, I'm kind of assuming people with more complicated returns wouldn't be using a low-cost internet tax prep service anyway.

Freetaxusa.com - One of my friends is actually a programmer for this online software. Another friend has used it for a while and has always been satisfied. Right now their prices appear to be a tad lower than TaxSlayer, but prices change so double-check before starting your return.

Taxact.com - Another internet tax software, comparable in price to TaxSlayer and FreeTaxUSA. My friend Tiffany has used this for years and still recommends it. So unless you have a strong personal preference, consider checking out all three and then go with the cheapest option.

For More Complex Returns (e.g. if you buy/sell stock and have many sales to report)

TurboTax - My friend Steve who works in Private Equity buys and sells stock for his personal investments, so he loves how Turbo Tax can link to his bank and investments accounts and do most of the work for him. If you have a more complex return but still want to prepare it yourself, this may be a good option for you. It's definitely pricier compared to more basic options, but still perhaps cheaper than having a professional prepare your return.

Want Your Return Prepared or Reviewed by Someone Else?

H&R Block - This is one of the most popular tax preparation services. You can (1) prepare your return yourself by using their online software, (2) go into their office and have an H&R Block employee prepare your return, or (3) choose their "Best of Both" option which allows you to prepare your return online yourself, then have it reviewed by a tax professional before filing.

Other Professional - None of these options seem reliable enough? Looking to establish a relationship with a provider you can rely on for years to come? Use the IRS Website to find an authorized e-file provider near you. These providers range from small CPA groups (like my dad) to larger firms (with pricetags to match). Ask a friend in your area who they'd recommend.

Free Tax Prep for Lower Income Individuals

VITA - If you're lower income (usually, earning $50,000 or less), you may qualify for free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Lauren and I volunteered for this organization while we were in college--it's a great program where volunteers are trained to look for credits specific to those with lower income, such as the Earned Income Credit. Call 1-800-906-9887 to see if there's a VITA site near you.

Speak Up - What are your experiences with these providers? Love or hate them?

What tax preparation service would you recommend?


  1. I've used TaxSlayer for my individual taxes and agree with what Nate said. Definitely best for very standard tax returns. Anything more complicated than that and I think you're better off finding something else. I definitely have had an easier time with our return when I've been working and had the "good stuff" (pro software) available to me.

  2. Lisa, I have a very specific question regarding my mission and taxes. I believe I never filed for a return for the beginning of '08 and all of' '07 because of being out of the country. I tried looking into it a few years back, but had a hard time getting anywhere. I don't want to give up if it is true that I am still due a return. Is there a way I can find out if I filled for either year?

    1. Lisa, if you have anything else to add, feel free, but here are my thoughts. First, you need to figure out if it's worth it to file. That would obviously be the case if you were required to file a tax return in 2007 or 2008, but depending on how much you made, you may not have been required to file a return. See link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2013/02/08/a-beginners-guide-to-taxes-do-i-have-to-file-a-tax-return/ Keep in mind you'll want to look up your state requirements. Second, it may be worth it if you had significant (whatever that is to you) wages withheld for federal and/or state taxes during those years (I'm guessing this may not be the case for 2007?) If you still want to know if you filed, I would try this link: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Order-a-Transcript I'm assuming if there's nothing on file they will tell you so. Third thing to consider is if you need to file, you'll need to track down your W-2s from six years ago. If you can't get them from your former employer, here's a link from the irs http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc159.html But it isn't cheap! Hope this helps!

    2. Hey Cyrena! I agree with everything Lauren said. Basically all you have to gain is any tax you had withheld (if any) from your paychecks in those years. And if your parents claimed you, you may not have much to get back.


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