One great feature of online filing is that it's free if you make less than $52,000 a year. But even if it's free, it always helps to be prepared and get all your receipts and financial information together. "Most of the process involves interviewing you," says Quain. "Get all that paperwork together beforehand." A little prep work will save you time in the long run.
Even if you're a tax procrastinator, it's best to begin filing as soon as possible. The internet - and your computer - may fail on you at the last minute. It's best to leave yourself a little wiggle room. "Don't wait until the night [of April 16th]," says Quain. "Those sites will be swamped... As we get down to crunch time, you never know what's going to happen, so start early."
Once you've made the decision to file your taxes online, there are several sites you can choose from. Quain tried out three popular sites and found pros and cons with each. The first site is www.taxact.com. While the site offers a free download of its basic tax filing program, "It's a long process," says Quain. "It has a lot of steps to it. For example, it took me about twelve pages to go through a W2 form. That's a lot." If you're crunched for time, this may not be the site for you.
Quain also visited www.turbotax.com. Turbotax, from the makers of Quicken, makes it easy to import your financial files to its tax program. The downside? The program is not free. "It's about $15.00 for the basic package... but they have a great interview process," says Quain. The program is fairly user friendly and depending on your needs, there are other, more in-depth packages to choose from as well.
The last tax website Quain visited was www.taxcut.com. This program was designed by H&R Block. "They've had it for years. It's gotten better and better and it's really quite good now," says Quain. You'll have to pay for this basic program as well - about $9.95, according to Quain - but if you're a business-minded person, this may be the site for you. "There's a lot of detail, and it gives you a print out of all the documents you'll need before they start the interview," says Quain.
If you're not only procrastinating about doing your taxes, but about writing a will as well, then you may want to visit www.legalzoom.com. This site not only walks you through drawing up your will, but it will store it in a secure place online. Another plus? Real legal professionals will review what you've written just to be sure it's correct. "LegalZoom has lawyers behind everything," says Quain.
For more information on filing your taxes online or other internet or computer advice, click here.
By Erin Petrun