It’s that time of year again, time to pay up what you owe to Uncle Sam. The big question is “should I do my own taxes?” and my answer is “well, that depends.” If you are single and have no deductions with the exception of perhaps school loans you can do you own taxes pretty quickly and easily right on line using the free version of TurboTax. I did my youngest daughters taxes, it took about half an hour and in two or three weeks she had her money! If you are like my husband and I you should think hard about doing your own taxes. We have deductions like mortgage interest, this year we hope to put in a wood oil furnace and there should be some tax breaks for doing that as well as the additional insulation we plan to add to the basement. Up until recently we had a small business as well and all of that has to be done as well with schedule C’s, profit and loss statements and the rest. I still did my taxes myself using Turbo Tax even with all of these things and saved a boat load of money, about $225.00 to be exact. The thing is while it’s not hard it’s not easy either. I’m pretty savvy with a computer and I’ve kept my business records on Quick Books so getting the information I needed to do the taxes was not all that difficult FOR ME.
Free tax preparation is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites in many communities. Taxpayers should check community newspapers for VITA site locations or call 1-800-906-9887 for more information. Taxpayers may also call AARP — the largest TCE participant — at 1-888-227-7669 to find the most convenient location.
IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers are a source of personal tax help when taxpayers believe their tax issues cannot be handled on-line or by phone, and they want face-to-face assistance. IRS representatives in these offices can help with inquiries, adjustments, letters and notices and payment plans for those who owe tax and cannot pay the full amount. Locations are posted on IRS.gov under the “Individuals” tab. Just click the link Contact My Local Office or type “Contact My Local Office” in the search box on IRS.gov to find availability by state. Also, taxpayers can hear a recorded message detailing office hours and addresses by calling the number listed in their local phone directory.
If you are fairly good with following directions on a computer, downloading software and what not I would recommend doing your own taxes. Turbo Tax has people you can talk to if you get stuck. If you think this isn’t for you I’d certainly try going to one of the local offices for help with the taxes. There is no harm in asking for help. It can be quite costly to have someone prepare your taxes for you and you’ll want to keep as much as you can of your return if you can manage it.
And one more thing if you are getting a whole bunch of money back every year you might want to think about changing how much comes out of your check every week. I know it’s nice to have a big chunk of money every year but you could cut down that big return by half and keep it in your weekly paycheck instead. I never want to have to pay in but I don’t want to give Uncle Sam my money to hold for a year either. Try going to the IRS Withholding Calculator, which helps taxpayers make sure the amount of income tax they have withheld from their pay isn’t too high or too low.
Best of luck with your taxes, whether you decide to have them done at a service, use a program or help from the IRS I highly suggest putting that money to good use. We will be using our tax return for buying cord wood for next winter for example. You could pay down debt. If you have a nice solid return and several hefty credit cards that are in collections by all means call them up and see if they will take an offer to settle the account. Stock up on all sorts of provisions and then keep the rest for a rainy day fund. I have to admit there were many times in my life I wished I had a rainy day fund or wished I had a bigger one!