People have many option these days for tax preparation, all have their strengths and weaknesses:
- Doing it yourself:
Tax preparation software like Turbo Tax, Tax-Cut, or just doing it in paper and pencil can be learning self educating experiences for those willing to invest their time. The software is easier to use and is getting better all the time. This is a good option for those with simple taxes, very comfortable with computers, identifying financial records and is very careful to input information correctly. The software is sometimes free (depending upon income www.irs.gov) or very low-cost. Some ‘free’ services may charge for electronic filing. The advantages of this option are the learning you get, low-cost, the quick turn around time to complete the return and get a refund. The disadvantage is a good tax professional can sometimes do better and help file a more accurate return, get you a higher refund or pay less in taxes, and plan better for the future.
- Getting Free Help
Free tax preparation assistance may be provided through one of the Benefit Bank sites in your state. In Columbus Ohio there are several sites of the Ohio Benefit Bank including the Vineyard Community Center, leave a message: 259-5352. Many county agencies provide this for low to moderate income people for no cost. Just doing a search in your browser can help you find one in your area, be sure the url contains a .gov to insure you are not being snagged to a commercial site. The service is really good, but not extensive, so many people will benefit from working with a professional.
- Professional Assistance
Tax Preparation Professionals (accountants, CPAs, and tax attorneys) can often save you money, even if your situation is simple. Be very careful, however, to help ensure that you are not over-charged. Get competent advice, referrals, and meet a few before choosing one. Remember, during tax season –February to April 15th these Professionals are extremely busy. Also, professionals can also be helpful by providing pointers for next year’s taxes, so that you can plan or keep good records now. This is especially applicable for self-employed people. If you owe taxes for other than last year, consider having your tax advisor review your old returns.
Tax Refund Loans
Some tax preparation services will loan you an amount equivalent to your tax refund. There is usually a fee and interest charged; only consider this if an emergency and after reading the fine print.