I’m a Turbo Tax guy. I have used Turbo Tax Deluxe to complete my federal and state tax returns for over 10 years. I’ve been pleased with the process; however, this year I came to the realization that I am a lazy tax filer. I really just use Turbo Tax because it is familiar and easy. It imports my information from last year automatically and then I just run through each step. Upload the W-2s – no problem! Also along the way the software will tell me what a great job I’m doing. Who doesn’t like to be told they are doing good? There is also that green number at the top showing how much of a return I’m getting. Talk about positive motivation! The software does a good job of making me feel like I’m doing a good job. It also reassures me that I’m not leaving any money on the table. God forbid I don’t get my full and rightful tax return! I always run through the long form itemized deductions but in the end, the standard deduction is always the largest. According to the IRS, almost 70% of tax filers take the standard deduction. So I happily complete my federal return and then Turbo Tax will give me my one “free” state tax return. I review my results and then I am again reassured that my taxes are correct and there is very little chance I will be audited by the IRS. Yeah! After I E-File my returns with the federal government and state, Turbo Tax has costed me $90 – $110. The $50 or so for the software seems reasonable but then add on the E-filing Fee and I’m wondering, isn’t there something better? The answer is yes! Even if you earn up to $66,000 a year, you have access to free tax software!
Remember to file your taxes early and often! Just kidding about that often part! Really don’t file more than once a year, the IRS doesn’t have a sense of humor about that sort of thing, but do file early. Statistics show that you are much less susceptible to fraud if you file your taxes early in the season as opposed to closer to the deadline or if you request an extension. Second, you should E-File because there is a much smaller percentage of errors on tax returns that are E-Filed versus paper returns. Also, …. it is 2018. Don’t file your taxes like it’s the 1980s even if you still love Bon Jovi and Duran Duran! (Was Duran Duran in the 80s? Never mind, you get it!) Okay, now let’s look at where you can E-file your taxes for free.
First you should check out United Ways VITA program. VITA stands for Voluntary income Tax Assistance Program. I am always surprised by how many people don’t know about this great program. United Way will do your taxes for you at no cost. With tax software, you still have to provide information. VITA takes all the stress out of the process while saving you money. My county of residence will allow you to use services with income up to $65,000. Also, if you live in Ohio as I do, the Ohio Benefit bank has a tremendous tax program. It allows you to E-file your taxes for free with joint household income up to $95,000! This is the one I will be trying this year. For more information go to this link http://www.uwstark.org/content/file-your-own-taxes-free. Where ever you are, you can dial 211 for United Way’s information line or google your county’s united way to see what free tax services are available to you.
Second, you should go to the IRS tool that lets you look up free software for you to use at https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/WizardHandler.do. I found plenty of free options but you may still need more detailed information before taking the plunge. Two Cents has a great article on how to file your taxes for free. Check it out at https://twocents.lifehacker.com/where-to-file-state-and-federal-taxes-for-free-1822381090. They did all the heavy lifting on this one.
My plan is to save money on my taxes this year and still get the maximum return. I’ll let you know how it goes. How about you? Do you use free tax software? How much do you spend to file your taxes? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to see how you get your taxes filed and we can all learn from each other. May you have a happy and stress free tax season!