How to Choose the Right Tax Software for You

Now that the IRS is accepting tax returns, it’s time to get serious about filing, if you haven’t already. For many taxpayers, using software to prepare returns makes sense. You can get help organizing your deductions and finding the right forms, but you don’t have to pay for an accountant to do it for you. And, if you do a little planning beforehand, you can even get paid some cash back money, depending on what tax software you buy, with the help of a shopping site like Ebates.

IRS 1040 Tax Form Being Filled Out

What Software will Meet Your Needs?

Your first task is to figure out what you need in terms of tax software. Figure out how complicated your tax return is going to be. Most “basic” versions of tax software, whether you get online versions or buy desktop software, aren’t going to include forms for investment income or home business income.

If you have rental or investment income, you will probably need some sort of “deluxe” version of the tax software. If it goes further, and you own a business or are self-employed, you might need “premium” or “home and business” versions.

Additionally, consider whether or not you will be filing state tax returns. Look for tax software that provides you with the option to file state returns. Most of the stripped-down versions that are free or very inexpensive only help you file simple federal returns. If you have more complex needs, you will need to make sure that you pay more for a more complete version.

Can Your Computer Handle the Software?

Look at the system requirements before you buy. An older computer might not support certain desktop versions, so you want to check the requirements before you buy. If you have an older computer, you might need to use an online version of the tax software. As long as you have updated your web browser, you should be able to use almost any online version of tax prep.

E-File Capability

One of the best ways to ensure that you get your refund as quickly as possible is to e-file your taxes. If you want to e-file, you need to check to make sure that the online tax prep or the desktop software you choose supports e-file. Then, find out about fees. Some tax prep programs charge e-file fees. Realize that you might be charged a separate fee for e-filing your state return as well.

Look at other fees as well. You want to know exactly what you will be paying when you purchase any tax prep program.

Other Considerations

As you choose your tax software for this season, here are a few other considerations:

  • Tax year: Make sure that you have the correct tax year. Laws change every year, so you need an updated version of the tax software. Some programs give discounts if you upgrade to the current year from last year.
  • Guarantee: Make sure that the tax software comes with some sort of guarantee. Some tax software companies agree to help you with the IRS if you are audited. This can provide you peace of mind.
  • Support: Before you buy, check into the level of support you can expect as you fill out your tax return. Look for the ability to call, email, or get help through live chat.

The right tax software for you should cover the essentials. You still need to be organized, and it’s up to you to provide the right information for the program. Also, make sure to save your own copy of the tax return for your records. Either print it out, or save it on a disk/thumb drive that you keep in a safe place.

Making the Most of Your Tax Software Purchase

Don’t forget to make the most of your tax software purchase. You can find several programs that help you get money back while you shop. You can use your cash back rewards credit card to help offset some of the cost.

Additionally, shopping sites like Ebates are great for getting money back. Ebates will give you money back if you buy products at Office Max online, or if you decide to file online using H&R Block’s tax prep software. Combine your Ebates purchase with your rewards credit card, and you can reduce the total cost of your tax software.

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By , on Feb 11, 2013
Miranda Marquit Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.


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