Major life milestones often have a major tax impact. Changes in your marital status, having a baby or adopting a child can have significant impact on your taxes. This is the place to ask questions about dependents, real estate, and other various scenarios that play a significant role in what taxes you pay.
02-06-2018 10:09 AM
02-06-2018 11:07 AM
I personally believe that all taxpayers should be tax smart. There is no better way to get tax smart than to prepare your own taxes. When you have common income, such as W2 wages, Social Security benefits and bank interest, tax preparation is relatively simple. If you are self employed, have rental property income or regularly trade stocks and mutual funds, then things can get complicated.
My first recommendation is to use software that is installed on your personal computer. My experience is that the web based software is not conducive to learning. Web based products seem to be designed to lead the taxpayer through a maze of questions that are aimed at gathering information used to prepare your taxes accurately. You really don't learn much. That experience may be suitable for some but if you really want to be tax smart, the software installed on your own computer is the best. These installed products still provide excellent guidance but also allow you to see all the behind the scenes worksheets that support the actual tax forms in your file. The latter is not available when you prepare your taxes using web based software. You pay for the installed software up front, but it's a one-time , known cost. With web based products, you won't know the actual cost until it comes time to send the completed forms to the IRS. Even though companies claim zero cost, my experience (and common sense) says that's not likely. It will depend on how complex your taxes are and if your elect any add on features, like a advance refund payment or audit defense.
Second, pull out a copy of your prior year tax paperwork. Go through every form submitted and attempt to understand what and why the forms are stating. If you get stuck, get online and search for answers, post a question here or call your accountant (after all he probably got paid well).
If you are ready to do-it-yourself, get all your paperwork together and organized. Pick a product that suits your situation and dive in. I promise you, if you want to be tax smart, this way works.
Lastly, one pet peeve (or two) of mine. Absolutely, never, never, ever send in your taxes to the IRS until March 1st. Taxes need to age. Bad things happen when you rush through the process. You may receive a delayed or corrected tax document you had not expected or forgot about. You may decide to make a late IRA contribution to lower your taxes. Just be patient and thorough. And, by thorough I mean, printout all the forms and go through each one line by line, cross checking the entries with your tax and bank statements. This quality check will help insure that you have done the task accurately.
PS? For about a decade, we paid a tax preparer. He was excellent but I wanted to be tax smart. Thirty years later, I'm so glad I took that step. Not only does it make you feel empowered, it will save you money in the long term by understanding how to save on taxes and plan your financial future.
02-06-2018 12:09 PM
BluesDog provided a great response to your question. To take it one step further, if you're wondering which H&R Block product might best fit your needs, I would suggest checking out the website (link below). There are options for doing everything on your own, getting a tax pro to review what you've done before submitting, or having a 1x1 consultation with a tax pro in one of the offices near you. To BluesDog's point, finding the product and process that works best for you is key.