questionsdo you use tax software online?

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Years ago, I used to do my own taxes. It would take about three weeks to research changes to the tax codes (Federal, NY State, NY City), gather my info, create a mock up form in Visicalc or Lotus 123 or Quattro Pro, verify everything, fill out the forms, and finally verify everything again.

When my mother died, a friend of my then wife who happened to be a lawyer for the IRS pointed out that we might be able to claim a loss on the sale of her house. I did a bit of research at a local law school to convince myself she was right and got in touch with a CPA and tax attorney. My sisters and I ended up saving about $15k each in personal income taxes and I've used his services every year since.

For over 20 years, I've not had to worry about problems with tax software, changes to the tax codes or anything else. His services aren't even all that expensive when I consider what my time and peace of mind are worth.

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I used to just have my mom do my taxes because she was a CPA and she wouldn't charge me. However, I have used Turbo Tax for the past 3 years.
It's convenient because it automatically calculates how much you will get back as you are progressing through the process. It is also personally helpful because my refund varies widely from year to year and sometimes it's better to file as single or head of household. You can compare the actual dollar value of your return on the fly, which is nice.
Also, if you have "simple" taxes and only pay Federal taxes, the software and e-filing are completely free. There are potential pitfalls if you don't have any idea what you are doing, but it's fairly idiot-proof.
Final note, if you use it year after year, it will auto fill a bunch of the info and compare your current refund with your previous years.

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@cfalgas: The refund on the fly calculation in turbotax makes me nervous. Like you noted, single vs head of household - that isn't really a choice, you are one or the other. I worry that people will fiddle with options and amounts and get themselves into trouble.

I'm a CPA, so my rant continues with the following: By the time you're ready to file your taxes, your tax liability is already set - you've engaged in (nearly) all of the transactions that will affect your bottom line and it's now just an issue of properly calculating it out... not trying to lower your tax bill. The time for that has come and gone.

And now my plug :) The tax code should be easy enough for an ordinary individual to deal with and prepare his own return, but really, it is not, and the IRS is not easy to deal with should you mess up. There are highly experienced CPAs nationwide whose rates are more than reasonable (call one, you'd be surprised). cont'd

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Like anything else, you get what you pay for... especially when it's free! It's definitely worth at least calling a CPA or two, or asking around.

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I used to use Turbo Tax, but the last 2 or 3 years I've used the H & R Block service that's somewhat similar. I've found it a bit easier to use than TT. Plus, I've been seeing some commercials about access to chat with a live tax specialist, or something like that. I haven't been paying that close of attention to their commercials.

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Turbotax, for years and years. But ours are pretty straightforward. I think if we had a special circumstance, I would pay someone to take care of it. It's not worth getting on the IRS's bad side.

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When in college I did my taxes but once I married my wife we've gone to a professional. The negligible cost is so worth the peace of mind. Plus the first year the accountant reviewed my past returns and found some additional money that I had missed. That was enough to convince me. Plus now our accountant runs our return a couple different ways, married OR each filing as single in a couple clicks we know which way of filing is more beneficial for us.
Our current accountant only does it part time and he is so much nicer that our first who was a full time accountant. He (current) costs us half as much as the professional and he's more of a friend now. We enjoy our tax return appointment each year. I suggest asking your relatives and friends about their accountants and you should end up with a few good options.

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@cfalgas: It may be "idiot proof" as you put it, but it is not always accurate. Programs do what they are programmed to do, and the more complicated the program, the more likely there are to be mistakes.

Once I received a hard copy of my taxes as done by my CPA friend, I input that info back into turbo tax, and got the same miscalculation as before.

I'm only suggesting that we not blindly trust tax software. :)

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My employer offers a discount on TurboTax, which I took advantage of up until last year. Last year we had some more complicated circumstances (filing in two states, buying our first house) so we paid a CPA (husband's family friend) to do them. All of the simple stuff that I had been using TurboTax for the last few years looked the same, but the CPA was able to take care of the more complicated things that I wouldn't have trusted TurboTax to do. I think we'll be going back to him again this year as this is the year we got married, and that may complicate taxes once again.

TL;DR: TurboTax is fine for the simple stuff. If you're unsure, use a CPA.

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Taxslayer.com

but sometimes I run it again elsewhere as backup. Number almost the same every year, so not to concerned.

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@wootbretz: That was the third program I used. They also showed mistakes.

Granted, I realize not everyone will have the same problems I did, but again, I am just warning people not be a little skeptical.

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I use H&R Block and they always seem to do a good job and it is fairly inexpensive. The stipulation being that I am single, with student loans, so I usually get some money back but not much.

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@claudicina: Do you care to share exactly what the mistake was?

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@wootbretz: I'd rather not go into detail, but it had to do with student loans.

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@claudicina: hmm, for student loans I input amount paid in interest for the previous tax year based on my 1098 E forms, but I don't believe I have had an issues with it.

I know my girlfriend may have a complication coming up because she took out a bar loan which is more of a personal loan than a direct student loan so I am not sure how that information would be classified or input.

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I have used Tax Act for 8 or 9 years but I think I need to switch over to using a professional. I have an issue that arose this year that requires a CPA or lawyer's advice plus some other fiddly things that would make it easier to just put it in someone else's hands.

cf cf
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I have used turbo tax and tax cut/HR Block at home, and I did find in general Turbo Tax was fairly simple to use, but have submitted and paid for Tax Cut/HR Block.

I had a case where my wife had student loans she had from before the marriage, and defaulted on them when she was laid off and could no longer make the payments, they then tried to seize the entire tax return. But if both parties aren't liable for the debt you can file injured spouse paperwork which is a specific form although the number is not coming to memory. I went back into turbo tax and they didn't have the option to print out that form, so I printed it from the IRS and and mailed it in the first year, the next year I knew the debt was still outstanding and wanted to cut the time in filing waiting for them to tell me they were going to take money and then getting a paper check and turbo tax did not have the option e-file with injured spouse while Tax Cut did offer it. I have used them since.

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I used TurboTax from 1995 until a year after I went in to business for myself 6 years ago - so 12 years of useage. I tried it on my own for that one year and it was a nightmare - since then I have used the same CPA. I spend about $400 more annually, but he does my quarterly and all my annual returns (personal and business).

It is WAY too complicated to use a computer program in my case and not worth the headaches.

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For simple tax years? Yes, I would use software/online. But I would use at least two online programs to verify each other.
Any major deductions or credits, like the first time home buyers credit? CPA hands down.