Like many people, I received state and federal tax-prep packages via snail mail for years and looked forward to the upcoming preparation session with a level of fondness reserved for, well, paying taxes. My usual practice was an immediate review of the "what's new" section in hopes of a new deduction or credit with a simple explanation of who it applies to before stuffing the package away for safekeeping.
The simple explanation part was important because erring on the side of caution was my usual path if I was unsure of something. Many years I mailed in the tax returns wondering if Uncle Sam is keeping more of my hard earned dough than necessary.
With the tax prep software widely available today, I no longer feel that way. About five or six years ago after prepping the usual way with paper forms I went on-line and tried a Web-based product called Tax Act from 2nd Story Software. The product offered completely free federal and state tax prep and required a payment only if I wanted to E-file. The process was relatively short and contributed an extra $300 to the Poland household that year due to college tuition expenses if memory serves. So I paid the under $20 fee, got a quick two-week refund due to E-filing, and never looked back using Tax Act exclusively since (on-line at www.taxact.com).
TurboTax is another service that has gained a following and, while I have never used it, I'm sure it works equally as well as Tax Act. The key to both services is the straight-forward questioning that allows the software to provide qualified deductions or credits for the user. It takes the frustration out of interpreting IRS instructions. The services work for both personal and small business returns.
Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at email@example.com.