A lot of Americans prepare their taxes online or via software using services like TurboTax, TaxAct, H&R Block and others. Some of these services use software you buy on a CD or DVD, others are online and some offer both options. And the IRS has a free-file program that lets tax payers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $73,000 or less file for free.

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For those not eligible for free-file, each company has its own rules and pricing, but TurboTax, the most popular service, gives you a choice between filing and purchasing the software. If you use the online service, you’ll pay separately for each return you file (unless eligible for a free return). If you purchase the software the price  includes preparation and printing of unlimited federal tax returns and e-filing of up to five federal returns, which may be more economical for some families.

If you purchase software (versus using their online service) make sure you’re getting the right package.  TurboTax, for example, has different pricing depending on the complexity of your returns, ranging from free for online preparation of simple returns to $119 for those with business income and other more complex scenarios.

One advantage to TurboTax and some other programs is their ability to pull in data from online sources such as banks and investment companies as well as your W2 forms from some employers. This not only saves time, but eliminates a lot of potential errors, including simple typographical mistakes when entering numbers.

If you think you qualify to take advantage of the IRS’s free-file program, you can find out more, including confirming if you’re eligible, at IRS.gov.  If you use a search engine to find the free-file site, make sure you go to the IRS site first, which will direct you to an authorized participating tax preparation site.

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Source:: The Mercury News


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