Tag Archives: IRS

Filing your taxes for free

money angle Tax time is agonizing for many as they try to navigate the maze of rules and forms that is the Internal Revenue Service. Computer programs have made it much easier to calculate your taxes for cheap. Before you pickup a program at the store or consider hiring a CPA or tax professional, check to see if you can get  your taxes done for free.

The IRS offers a service called VITA or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance for anyone making $51,000 or less. I used it when I first started in this business and made peanuts. While it’s a good service, you need to be careful. Most of the tax returns these volunteers prepare are simple. However, if you freelance as I did back then to make some extra money be careful. My taxes were done wrong, and then I was stuck fixing the mistakes by myself years later when they were spotted. The volunteer didn’t fully compute the business tax properly for independent contractors and I ended up owing a few dollars more. It wasn’t much money, but it was a headache to fix the mistake.

I still saved money with the volunteers because I got my taxes done for free, but I spent hours fixing their mistakes that were duplicated for a few years.

That was back in the days when people filed paper returns. Now, that computers do the hard work for you those mistakes are less likely to happen. The IRS also has Free File programs which allow you to prepare your taxes for free with online software if you make $57,000 or less. While it’s called Free File, you need to read the fine print on the individual company you choose. It’s only free to file your federal return, and some sites charge you a high fee to file your state return.

Check a few sites before you decide on a company. You should be able to get your state taxes filed for under $20.


IRS offers guidance on airline refunds

Seal of the Internal Revenue Service

Image via Wikipedia

The IRS is finally announcing guidelines for tax refunds related to the expiration of federal excise taxes on airline tickets. This comes just days after JetBlue announced a plan to offer refunds.

The IRS is asking the airlines to issue the refunds since they have all the details on the passenger’s itinerary, fees paid, and credit information to issue a refund.

If you can’t get a refund from your airline, passengers can request one from the IRS. You’ll have to submit proof of your travel dates and fees paid, but the guidelines for requesting a refund this way are still in development by the IRS. So, it looks like your best bet is to request the refund from the airline or you may be waiting awhile for the IRS.

The expiration of the excise tax means you’ll receive more than 7.5% of the ticket price in the form of a refund. The 7.5% tax is gone, the segment tax of $3.70 per person per segment, international tax of $16.30 per person for flights that begin or end in the U.S., $8.20 charge for person for a flight that begins or ends in Hawaii or Alaska, and the 6.25% tax for transporting property by air is also eliminated until this tax issue is resolved.

While many taxes are gone, most passengers are not seeing lower fares even on international flights. Many of the airlines are not passing the savings onto the consumer.

At this time, most of the airlines have not issued statements on their refund policies or procedures. For now, you can wait until a plan is set or call Customer Service.

Tracking your tax refund

The tax season got off to a late start because of changes the IRS had to make to its system to reflect the tax breaks that were passed in late 2010.  Tens of thousands of people in just Ohio waited until the last two weeks to file. If this is you, no matter where you live, you can check the status of your refund.

If you e-filed and selected direct deposit, your refund should arrive within 7-10 days of filing your return. The date on mine was a lot closer to 10 days.  If you e-filed and selected a paper check your wait will be three weeks.  If you filed a paper return and selected a paper check, your refund will take six weeks.  If you filed an amended return, expect your refund in 8-12 weeks.

If you want to verify that timeline, you can check the status of your refund on the IRS website. Click on “Where’s My Refund” to track your money.  You need to enter your social security number and the amount of your refund, so make sure you are browsing in “private mode.” Click here for tips to browse privately.

If you don’t have a computer, you can call the IRS Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954.

There’s also an app for smartphone users.  IRS2GO allows you to check the status of your refund.  Again, be concerned about privacy.

Tax filing for less than $20

People spend hundreds to file their taxes, but you can file them for less than $20. It’s hard to believe, but it’s possible. There are dozens of software programs out there that make it easy to file even if you’re not a tax pro.

We put two programs to the test, and what we found surprised a Certified Public Accountant and our consumer.

If you want to find a cheap program to file your taxes, I read all the fine print to let you know how much they truly cost. Click here to see the easy to follow guide on NewsChannel 5.

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 filers 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.

Even if you don’t qualify for Free File, there are other cheap options available to use. Most of the Free File companies have an option available for taxpayers who don’t qualify for the free version. This year, I’ve noticed many “Free” advertisements. Remember, it’s only for the federal return and sometimes free federal filing software won’t work if you itemize.

I’m sorting through all the offers for a story on NewsChannel 5, and a taxpayer is putting some of the programs to the test. Check back in a week and a half for the results. It may save you some money on tax preparation.

In the past, I’ve found taxpayers who found $10 software programs that were easy to use and delivered a fairly accurate return. We’ll tell you how they stack up this year. We have a CPA reviewing the returns done by the taxpayer through cheap online software.  I’ll reveal the results in about a week and a half.