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April 2009
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Countdown to tax time

11:47 AM Mon, Apr 13, 2009 |
Posted by: Walt Zwirko
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 Attention, procrastinators: your taxes are due this week. That means it’s time to throw it into high gear sometime before midnight Wednesday if your Form 1040 is still a blank sheet of paper.

The IRS isn’t particularly fond of paper, however, and so preparing your taxes online is a great last-minute solution. You may be surprised to learn that many taxpayers qualify for the IRS Free File program.

As the name suggests, it lets you fill in all the necessary information on your computer and zap it to the feds without so much as a postage stamp. Your 2008 adjusted gross income (AGI) must be $56,000 or less to qualify for Free File, which is administered by a consortium of private-sector tax software companies. I’ve used it in previous years to file returns for my children, and it’s a great alternative to the traditional paper-based scheme.

 If you don’t qualify for Free File but still enjoy (?) doing your own taxes, the IRS has another way to go: Fillable Forms. While tax preparation software like Free File, Turbo Tax and Tax Cut all prompt you to enter information and then calculate the totals for you, Fillable Forms is strictly old school with a digital twist. It does perform some computations on your behalf, but there’s no over-the-shoulder guidance or tax advice.

As with Free File, Fillable Forms also lets you electronically transmit your return to the IRS via the Internet, no postage necessary.

I used H&R; Block’s Tax Cut software (the kind you buy in a box down at the Wal-Mart) to file my taxes along with the return of a family member this year, and I used E-File (electronic filing) to dispatch the data to the government. (Both Tax Cut and arch-rival Turbo Tax are offering up to five free E-Files per software purchase this year; previously they charged extra to those who didn’t want to print-and-mail). There were refunds involved in both my returns this year, and both were directly deposited to the appropriate accounts within two weeks.

Tax Cut and Turbo Tax also offer online versions of their traditional disc-based software. The primary advantage is that you can work on your return from any computer with an Internet connection. To me, the disadvantage is the need for your most personal financial data to be stored on a computer other than your own.

Of course, if you’ve waited this long and won’t have time to complete your return, there’s always the option to file a six-month extension, which you can do electronically using either Free File or Fillable Forms.

If you think you owe money, however, you’ll also have to send a check along with your extension request by April 15. Sorry, no bailout for you.

E-mail askwalt@wfaa.com



2 Comments

Show Wall Street that you are not a spineless wimp. Don’t file, politicians don’t file, why should you.

Show Wall Street that you are not a wimp. Don’t file 1040, Politicaian don’t file, why should you?


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