Getting Tax Help From Tax Professionals & Products

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-01-272

How far along are you with your taxes? If you’re still working on your records and documents, and looking for a better way to go about preparing your tax return, you may be interested about going over some options that are available.

How Do You Do Your Taxes?

H&R Block At Home Software

What if you want to do your own taxes? There are people who prefer to save money by handling their own financial affairs. Or maybe you’ve got a fairly simple set up to deal with. One of the first things a relative of mine purchased this year was a copy of H&R Block Software. The software guides you through your tax return by asking questions in easy to understand language. You can work at your own pace, without the pressure of having to set up an appointment with someone. Also, tax preparation software is capable of keeping up with all the tax laws and the changes that can affect you. This can be quite beneficial if you’re a first time homeowner, you have children, or you have other circumstances that can yield deductions or credits.

With tax programs, you can print your return or decide to e-file online. If you used the software last year, you may be able to import last year’s data. Note that many products offer free online tax filing (e-filing) but be aware that you might pay extra to file a state return.

Here is a short list of financial products that could help facilitate tax preparation and accounting processes for you:

Financial Software
H&R Block At Home Premium Best choice if you are self-employed or own rental property. 20% Off
H&R Block At Home Basic Best choice for simple federal tax returns. 20% Off
H&R Block At Home Deluxe Best choice if you own a home, have investments or make charitable donations. 20% Off
H&R Block At Home Premium & Business Best choice for business owners. 20% Off
TurboTax Tax software with e-File & State. On Sale
QuickBooks Products Accounting software for business owners. 20% Off

Disclosure: We are affiliates of some of these products and services.

Getting Tax Help Via Online Tax Services

Online tax services have gained a lot of fans in recent years. With an online tax service, you can start your return at home, continue it at work, then wrap things up on a laptop elsewhere if you want.

Aside from its software packages, H&R Block also offers several levels of do-it-yourself tax preparation for the web. Their online versions include H&R Block At Home Free, which lets you prepare, file, and print a basic Federal return without cost to you. You can actually get started with other online versions of H&R Block for free, but you’ll eventually get charged. For instance, the Deluxe version costs $29.95 — it’s a better option if you’re a homeowner and/or maintain investments. You’ll also be able to have your return double checked and guaranteed accurate.

If you’re self-employed, own rental properties, or have other advanced tax issues, you should check out the Premium edition. It’s $49.95 and comes with a tax advice session with one of H&R Block’s tax professionals. For all three versions of H&R Block At Home, you’ll pay extra if you need to file a state return. For more information, you can check out our H&R Block Tax Services Review.

Another online tax service is FreeTaxUSA. You won’t be forced to install any software on your computer. Instead, you can sign in, then answer questions that will help you find the best deductions and tax credits. You don’t have to worry about tracking down tax forms, because FreeTaxUSA will generate them based on your interview answers. The Free edition lets you prepare and file your Federal return for free; e-filing is included and there’s an automatic refund calculator.

When you select the Deluxe version, you’ll add features like Audit Assist Protection, Priority Support, and the ability to amend your returns an unlimited number of times. You’ll pay only $5.95 more for the Deluxe version. State returns for either edition cost $9.95.

Here’s a convenient list of online tax services for your perusal (disclosure: we are affiliates of some of these products):

Financial Software
H&R Block Online Free FREE to prepare, FREE to print, FREE to e-file and more. FREE
H&R Block Online Basic Best choice for simple tax situations. 25% Off
H&R Block Online Premium Best choice if you are self-employed or own rental property. 25% Off
TurboTax Online FREE For simple tax returns you can do online. FREE
TurboTax Online Basic Provides step-by-step help and guarantees the biggest refund. On Sale
TurboTax Online Deluxe For those who wish to maximize their deductions. On Sale
TurboTax Online Home & Business For business owners, contractors & consultants. On Sale
Free Tax USA Free Federal, free e-File; extra for State, good support. Up To $5.95
Complete Tax Basic to Premium tax services. Various
QuickBooks Online Products Popular business accounting software with tax support. Various

Who’s Your Tax Professional?

If you’ve got a sophisticated tax profile, say if you’re a business owner or have complex finances, then hiring a tax professional may spare you from headaches. I started off with a tax professional early on in my career because I outgrew the EZ-Form and decided that outsourcing this bit was an efficient use of time and money.

So I went with an enrolled agent whom I’ve been consulting with for quite a long time now. I joke that I “grew up” with this EA. 🙂 He belongs to that group of individuals who can represent taxpayers before the IRS and had even worked at the IRS at one point. Certified public accountants and certain lawyers are among those who might be enrolled agents (as well). Enrolled agents can also get certified if they pass a written exam. If you decide to work with a professional, they will be able to fill out and file tax forms and related documents for you, handle communications with the IRS, and represent you at meetings. Another advantage of hiring a pro? You can get your tax questions answered pretty easily as well.

If you’re already going to a certified public accountant (CPA) for other aspects of your financial life, it would be a natural move to ask them about preparing your taxes. The right CPA can also assist you with planning for next year’s taxes, too. Such thinking ahead can reduce your tax burden later. I would go visit the AICPA (the largest professional association of CPAs) to find a qualified CPA, as they maintain a directory of financial professionals who specialize in personal finance.

Others turn to a financial advisor for tax preparation help. A well-rounded financial advisor can help you with tax planning in addition to assisting you with investments, selecting insurance options, estate planning, and retirement planning. The financial advisor Ameriprise has a Tax Center with filing resources, tools, and a section for referrals to tax professionals in your area. Edward Jones, another financial advisor, offers a tax resource center and a tax hotline for its customers.

When it comes to finding help with tax preparation, you have a number of choices. So which approach are you taking?

Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul January 28, 2011 at 6:24 am

I own multiple rental properties and two businesses, so my taxes are quite complicated and the final tax form package is often close to 100 pages. I have used Turbotax for several years. These tax software programs are so sophisticated that it is fairly easy to do taxes correctly.

Organizing your records in advance is the hardest part of doing taxes and you have to do that whether you hire a professional or use tax software.

ConsumerMiser February 2, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I have been using H&R Block At Home Premium for a while now. I believe Turbo Tax is good too, but since I started using H&R Block At Home Premium I have not found a reason to switch. Years ago I found that after gathering everything for my tax preparer, I could essentially do it myself with a reliable software program and relying on past tax returns.

I don’t trust the online services yet. Not because of the service itself, but because of potential hackers.

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