Not Your Grandfather's Tax Filing System

In the old days, I use to run around town looking for the right tax forms, go through several erasers completing the forms, and then madly race to the post office to mail my tax return by the due date. When I lived in Tucson, one post office stayed open until midnight for procrastinating filers; they even gave you a cookie when they stamped that all-so-important postmark that said you made the deadline!

How times have changed! Now you can go straight to the website and file your tax return electronically. It's safe and easy. Plus, the forms you need are all in one place! As the IRS website brags, "All federal forms are free. It's free whether you draw a paycheck, are self-employed or are a small business owner. It's free whether you file a Form 1040, 1040EZ or 1040A. It's free whether you have mortgage interest to deduct, have kids in college or earn a little from the stock market. It's all free."

If your income is above $62,000 then you have the option to complete the federal tax forms electronically. This is what you get (and don't get):

  • Free Fillable, electronic versions of the paper forms
  • Must know how to do your taxes yourself
  • Basic guidance and automatic math calculations
  • State tax prep is not available

And, if your income is less than $62,000, you can use programs that don't require knowledge of the federal tax return forms; instead tax software will guide you through the process of filing taxes. With this you get:

  • Free tax prep software
  • Software which makes doing taxes easier (it asks you simple questions, and then completes the forms)
  • State returns available, some are free

Here are my five tips for using the software:

  • Go through the steps, one by one. Don't jump ahead
  • If it asks you if you want a tax credit, say yes!
  • Take the time to read the help information (on some software, it's represented by a question mark) if you're not sure what the tax software question is referring to.
  • Slow down, don't skim the questions.
  • Don't wait to the last day to start completing your state and federal tax forms.

So, essentially, take your time and don't procrastinate. Spoken from the voice of experience!

You can have your refund deposited to more than one account -- for example, split your deposit to both your checking and savings accounts. For some people, the new myRA is a great opportunity; you have the option to deposit straight to a myRA from the tax software. Read more about it at myRA - Easy to Start Saving!