Filing your taxes for free

If you itemize, you can officially begin filing your taxes today and the return will be processed. Up until this point, the IRS was not processing returns while it updated its computer system to account for the tax breaks that were added at the end of 2010.

Filing your taxes doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many free options, and some choices that won’t cost you much. There’s no need to spend hundreds, maybe not even $50.

If your adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less, you can file your federal taxes for free through Free File software. However, you won’t qualify for every program. Some companies set age and income limitations, so make sure you read the rules of every program to find the one that works for you. Read the fine print, because some programs charge high fees for state returns. Click here for the list of Free File companies or let the IRS help you find one that fits your personal situation.

Be careful in choosing a free file provider. Some of the companies make their money on pricey state returns. You may be able to get it free depending on what state you live in. For Ohio residents, the state does not participate in any free state filing. The cheapest one is $4.95 if you qualify. Click here to find a free file program from my easy to follow list that I put together for NewsChannel 5.

Even if you don’t qualify for Free File, there are other cheap options available to use. Most of the free file providers also provide options for those who don’t qualify for the free programs.

I found programs that allow a family that itemized and doesn’t qualify for free file to file their taxes for less than $20. One program cost less than $10. I had a CPA prepare his own return for the family, and then I had him compare all three. Watch the story below to see how accurate the self-prepared returns were using the software available online.

You can also check your State’s Tax Department for other free options.

Protect your personal information
If you file online, make sure you do your taxes in private mode to reduce your digital footprint. Security experts say the technology that makes our browsing experience exciting, also makes it risky.  Websites form a profile of you based on the sites you visit. They track this information with “cookies.” The problem is, these cookies leave behind crumbs and it’s these crumbs that can cause damage if they end up in the wrong hands.

We had security company, SecureState, analyze an average computer user’s system. Based on her browsing history, they found enough information to steal the woman’s identity.  The security company found the family’s username and password for their tax software, and the family’s social security numbers from their taxes. Make sure you don’t leave behind this footprint by browsing privately.

Click here for instructions to browse privately with Internet Explorer

Click here for instructions to browse privately with Firefox

Click here for instructions to browse privately with Safari

Click here for instructions to browse privately with Google Chrome

–Instructions courtesy of SecureState

Click here for more tips to protect yourself

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