Let’s talk about the best tips to get your taxes filed on a budget. Without fancy language or pretty sentences, I’m going to run through each possible scenario and give you my tips and be done with it because who wants to read about getting taxes prepared for any longer than necessary? Right? Let’s go.
You file your own taxes online
If your taxes aren’t that complicated and you are comfortable DIYing them, this is one of the most cost effective ways to get your taxes done. That being said, there are still ways to save a little bit more money. I’ve recently seen deals on Groupon for buying tax software, and there are tons of Ebates rebates available for different websites. H&R Block, TurboTax and Free Tax USA are ones that are listed on there today. If you don’t use Ebates, get signed up using my link to get an additional $10 with your first purchase.
Another option if you have what is considered a “simple” return (I’ll explain in a minute); file your federal for free eztaxreturn.com, and pay $19.99 for a state return. You can qualify for a “simple” return if you claim no dependents, your income is less than $100,000, your income is from a W-2, unemployment or social security, and you are either single or married filing jointly. Next to the old fashioned way of filling out paper and putting it in the mail, this is probably the most inexpensive option available.
You don’t want to file online and can’t afford to pay a filing fee
There is always the tried and true option of filling out the paper forms and mailing them to the IRS. The forms always used to be available at the Post Office. Honestly I’m not sure if they still are, but it would be a good place to check.
Local libraries often host free events with volunteers who will complete your taxes and get them filed. Senior centers are another resource – they will often find individuals to offer these services either free or at a very low cost. Start making some calls to research.
You use a tax preparation service
When you are using a service, you want to find the sweet spot of low cost paired with high quality. The first things you want to do is call around and get prices. Anybody who won’t give you a price or at least a definite price range is a NO. Next!
When you have the prices compiled, do an online search for reviews. What you’re looking for here is one with a minimum 4 star review, and in the lowest price range. It doesn’t have to be the lowest price because quality is very important here, and well worth a higher price. If a mistake is made, you want a place that will take responsibility and work to fix the issue and keep you off the IRS mailing list.
If you work for a large company, there is a chance that your employer could have obtained group discounts for either tax preparation services or online tax preparation. My former employer used to offer a discount for TurboTax. Be sure to check that avenue to be safe.
You use a CPA
The same evaluation should take place when you are looking for a CPA. If you’ve got a business or any other kind of unusual tax situation that makes it a little more complicated to file your taxes, a CPA is definitely a good option. You will likely be seeing a higher price point for a CPA than, say, H&R Block, but by comparing a few, you will get a good feel of what a mid price point is in your area.
The option that I use, that I did not know about until last year is an online CPA. I went that route because the CPA I used last year informed me that they would charge $1,000 this year with an LLC. That was more than I wanted to pay, so I started exploring different options. I found a company called EcoTax.com. There is a $350 fee to start (one time), and then $35 a month after that. That covers tax preparation costs, and access to a CPA year round. Owning an online business myself, this choice was a no brainer for me. If you own a business it’s a great option.
Finding tax preparer and CPA options
If you don’t know where to even start compiling a list of tax preparers or CPAs in your area, you can search the Dave Ramsey ELP link. (ELP = endorsed local provider) Simply search for the link online and get started. The tool is a great way to find providers that have been approved by his organization. You still want to do your due diligence of price checking and online ratings, but it would be an easy place to get a starting list.
Things to Avoid
- Don’t pay to get your money faster if you’re getting a return. That’s just a complete waste. You didn’t have that money anyway, and it’s just an extra fee.
- Don’t pay to have your taxes prepared out of your return unless you find someone who charges the same exact amount for that. They are basically financing the preparation costs, so there will almost always be an additional fee.
- Don’t be afraid to have your taxes prepared and procrastinate. Get them prepared the sooner the better. Nothing says that once they’re prepared you have to file that day. You can still wait until the deadline and file if you owe. And you can set up a payment plan if you have to. They’ll stretch them out as long as two years. Just know that that is a possibility.
Ready, set, go!