It’s 2007. That means, for U.S. taxpayers, tax time is underway.
Each year, Americans pay billions of dollars either hiring someone to do their taxes for them, or, if they are like most Americans, spend money on tax preparation software and do it themselves.
What most Americans don’t seem to know is they can file their taxes themselves without paying a penny out of pocket.
In 2003, the Internal Revenue Service and the Free File Alliance LLC (a group of private tax software companies) formed a partnership and created a program that allows roughly 70 percent of taxpayers to calculate and electronically file their taxes for free. The only requirement for the service is your adjusted annual income must fall under $52,000.
And, the program is simple to use.
First, you log onto the I.R.S. Web site, www.irs.gov and click on the 2007 free file link on top. After reading the instructions and clicking “start now” you are allowed to select the tax program you want to use to calculate your tax return.
You have 19 companies to choose from, including the most popular ones, H & R Block and Turbo Tax, which usually sell for about $20 at the store.
Once you complete the information needed on the program, you click the e-file button and you’re done. You even have a choice to receive a check or have your refund direct deposited into your checking account.
When I mentioned this program to my family members, the first response I got was “yeah, but do you really trust the IRS to give you a refund?” And, I suspect there are many other skeptics out there. So, I’ll tell you how my federal taxes went. In 2006, I paid $1,686 in federal income tax. After filling in my information on the tax preparation software provided (I used H & R Block), I will be getting $1,686 back.
Each of the programs listed on the site also give you the option to file your state income taxes. However, they do charge for that service, usually around $25. When they ask you if you want that option, just say no. You can get that service for free too.
Most states offer free tax preparation and/or filing on their individual Web sites. State Web sites can usually be found by typing the state’s name followed by a .gov. For example, Wisconsin’s state government Web site is www.wisconsin.gov. If you don’t see a link on the main page, do a search for income tax and, if they offer a program, you’ll be brought to it.
Because I found both the I.R.S. Web site and my state’s Web site, I have already filed all my tax papers and should be getting my refunds direct deposited to me in about a week. I’ll be spending my money by the time many of my co-workers are able to sit down with a tax professional. And, unlike them, I don’t have to give part of the money to someone else.
You worked hard for your money last year. Why should someone else receive money to help you with your taxes when you can do it yourself for free? There are programs out there, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.