I have a tendency to put everything off until the last minute. Not here at work, (unless its non-show critical tasks like blogging, sorry) at work I’m more of a “get it done” type of person. But outside of that I tend to think that the best time to do anything is “later” or even “tomorrow.” Laundry… I have to be wearing the last clean ____ (fill in type of garment) before I’ll throw a load of laundry in. Shaving… my face has to start itching before I usually shave (quarter to an eighth of an inch or so) which could mean as much as month for me as slow as my facial hair grows.
So why is it that when I got my W-2 form from Entercom (and for the second year in a row) my taxes have been finished 5 minutes after getting that W-2? I e-file, that’s why. It’s not for everyone. I have veeerrrrryyyyy simple taxes to figure. Pen, paper, and stamps wouldn’t take me very long either. I don’t have any dependents, single status, single employer, standard deduction only, you get the idea. But for several years I had a professional prepare my taxes for me anyway. He did it as a favor (and thanks by the way) because I framed a door and installed a heavy duty lock on an office for him. But after a few years of that I went back to doing my own taxes. (I just felt my time was up for what he owed me on the door)
Prior to professional tax prep I had done my taxes (late in tax season, see paragraph 1) the old fashioned way. Then I switched to TeleFile when that became an option. But e-file seems to be the easiest solution for me these days. So easy I can get it done five minutes after getting my hands on my W-2. And there’s little reason not to.
But take these few precautions if you decide to try it yourself. Start by going to IRS.GOV. You’re right, I didn’t link it. Type it in to your browser address bar (not a search bar) yourself. This will guard you against clickjacking. If you type it into your address bar yourself, you can be assured you will be visiting the official IRS website and NOT a similar looking website designed to get your tax information and account numbers. That is, unless a virus or other malware already on your computer isn’t trying to steal your information. So, make sure you are virus and malware free before doing your taxes. Viruses can redirect you from legitimate sites to scammer sites, and keyloggers can record any account information you enter into legitimate websites.
So, I guess that should have been “step 2” go to IRS.GOV. What you are looking for on this page is called “Free File.” There is a short list of qualifications you have to meet before you can use most of the free services, but if you qualify you can file your federal taxes for free. Most of them charge to file your state taxes, but it’s usually a reasonable $10 to $15. Follow the easy instructions, fill in the required information, and you’re all set.
A few things to watch for. Watch for the “https” in the address of the prep services web site. Any page you enter information into needs to have that “S” at the end of http. Chose whether you want to download tax software or not. I don’t, so I use an online prep service, but there is free tax prep software (for those who qualify) that you can download if that works better for you. Any prep service or software listed on the “free file” page is licensed and tested by the IRS. If you are curious, I use “Free Tax USA” but that isn’t an endorsement. Anything on that list is going to be O.K. They can and do store my tax information for use the next year. It does make things go faster, but I don’t like my tax info being “on the cloud” like that. But they do NOT store my banking information which I will not ever do no matter how much I trust a service. So that’s a big plus. The one positive endorsement of Free Tax USA I will make is that the tax information they have (name, address, telephone, income figures, employer, and so forth) has not been compromised in any way since I began using it. Trust me, if that changes I’ll be blogging about it a short time later to warn you all away.
Just a few other things to watch out for. The IRS does not e-mail you. EVER. Even if you e-file, they still contact by USPS. If you get an e-mail from the IRS… it’s a SCAM. Every time, no exceptions. If you get an e-mail from the “IRS” and you want to help ruin a scammer’s day (I love ruining scammers days) forward any such email to email@example.com. And for more helpful tips on tax scams, such as the phony phishing documents that were being mailed (via U.S. post office) to my house, go to IRS.GOV and click on “Suspicious e-Mails and Identity Theft.”
By the way, check out all the entendre in the 3rd sentence of the first paragraph. Gross, right? Made me laugh proofing it, so I kept it.