Wednesday, April 20, 2005

For you D-I-Y Taxpayers - Turbo Tax and your 1040

I am a D-I-Y ("Do-It-Yourselfer") taxpayer. This is not because I work with the tax law all day. It is more of a sense of financial closure for the year and a check as to where I have been. It also usally leads to budgeting and asset reallocation. For those of you who don't find a thrill in taxes, I still suggest that the best thing to do is to see your local CPA. But for the D-I-Y's out there, read on.

Now that the tax season is over for most of us, I need to send a big "Thank You" to Turbo Tax. The progression of electronic filing and the ability to prepare taxes on-line over the past several years is nothing short of revolutionary. Do you remember not being able to eat at the dining room table from March on as all the tax information was spread out, in (somewhat) neat little piles until the impending pressure of April 15 forced the calculator and pencil to be brought out. Much swearing and consternation would then occur, until finally, the form was done, and you would look in the mirror to see how much hair you had pulled out?

No longer. With Turbo Tax, it is like having a tax preparer right in your living room for about $30.00. Just take your piles (whether from the dining room table or elsewhere) and start answering questions. The questions take you on a walk through the tax code to report all your income, and even better, collect all your deductions. Even for non-tax types, the process is close to fun. As you answer questions, more questions are asked. For the curious types, you even can find out all about new sections of the tax code. As you go along, you see a running tally of your taxes - or even better, your refund amount. (Having said that, if you got a large refund, you just gave an interest free loan to the government - my, aren't you generous. Take a look at your exemptions to keep more money as you go along during the year).

And the following year, you just update the information from the last year. So, if you haven't changed jobs or had some major investment turn over, it is really just a question of updating some numbers, hitting send, and waiting for the check to hit your bank account - or wait until April 15 to drop your check in the mail.

If you used an accountant this year, and think that taxes are one of those things that you should be able to do yourself, take a look at Turbo Tax come February of next year (don't wait until April when the weather might be nice).

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