So it’s the end of February and tax day is looming by six weeks! Might as well be tomorrow, right? If you’re like a lot of the other people around you, you’ve got a W-2 (or two or three) and possibly a tuition statement (if you get financial aid including loans, make sure you get this form from your school – it can help you get money back…ching ching!).
If you’ve got a 1099, I feel your pain. They are a bother and a hassle, but e-filing makes it a snap. No more waiting at the post office to get your forms in at the deadline. All you’ll need is 1) all your tax forms, 2) a computer with steady Internet connection and 3) patience (just cause it’s easy doesn’t mean it doesn’t take more than 2 seconds).
There are a number of different sites that will beckon to you “File Here!”, but the key is to look for the free ones. My favorite is Turbo Tax (they offer the Freedom File which is a great option for students and others who don’t earn much in a year), though there certainly are some others (see the IRS website for a listing) that can get the job done as well. You’ll need to create a login and remember this from year to year (keep the emails they send or email yourself your login and password and put a subject that clearly labels the email as your tax login). Even if your email address changes, you can change it in the account settings after you login – beware though, you may still need to login with that old email address (many times that email is your login ID) so don’t just scrap that email!
E-filing is similar to paper filing in that you can start and stop on the form whenever you want. Five minutes a day if you want. It’s different in that answers to your questions are much easier to locate (sorry, IRS, your site is very confusing to navigate) as the program you use has their own help file that includes common sense answers and IRS answers. Every question on the tax form can have it’s own help file which is great. E-filing is also different in that it will automatically show you the forms you need based on the information you tell it you have. Say you have that 1099 I mentioned earlier – it will tell you what types of filing are available to you and show you the forms that are necessary to fill it out. It will walk you through each form as you need to fill it out. If you mess up an answer, all you have to do is go backwards (use the button within the program, not within your browser) and correct it. No more trouble if you stink filling out forms.
The other thing about e-filing is that no longer do you have trouble finding forms for multiple states if you worked several places. The last several years I have lived in one state, but worked in another (or both states). I always file my state form (free money!) and the state I worked in. Sometimes the second state form will cost you, depending on your state’s participation in the free filing program. Usually even if they don’t, you can get the form done for 6 or 7 dollars. If the program you are using says it will charge you an arm and a leg to do the form, you do not have to file your state return with them. You can “shop around” for the best deal on the net and file just your state form there. No need in paying a ton unless you just prefer the convenience.
Perhaps the best thing about e-filing is that you can sign up to have your refund money automatically deposited into your bank account. This usually occurs much faster than if you were to request the government send you a check. Who doesn’t want their money faster?
So leave those environmentally unfriendly stacks of paper alone at the library and the post office – try e-filing this year and who knows? You might like it.
HarriMac enjoys a well lived life with a large serving of soul. Her special feature, Welcome to Soulville, appears every Thursday.