April 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm
by Christina Tynan-Wood
The dreaded tax day approaches. And to make it even more upsetting, I suffer from post-traumatic-tax-day syndrome. For the past two years, I’ve hired a tax accountant to do my taxes. I am talking about two different accountants here! Both of them, in their own way, stopped returning phone calls – after I turned over all my documents. They missed the tax deadline, filed an extension, and — in both cases — ended up costing me money in penalties. In one case, the guy went so incommunicado that I had to wait outside his office and refuse to leave till he dealt with my taxes.
I have a suspicion that this sort of trauma is not easier than doing the math myself. So this year, I took matters into my own hands. I’ve been using TurboTax’s online tool to muddle through. (Price ranges from free to $100 depending on how complicated your taxes are.) And it’s been going pretty well. I’m self-employed and so is my husband. So our taxes are super complicated. But I just log on and answer the questions, one at a time, till I can take no more. Then I log off. It remembers everything I’ve entered and takes me right back to the spot where I left off when I log back in again. I also use Mint.com to manage my money so entering accurate data has been pretty easy, too. I started about two weeks ago and my tolerance for working on this is somewhat pathetic. But I’m almost done. In fact, this may be the calmest weekend before tax day I’ve had since I started paying attention to maximizing my deductions. And if you can’t handle it and decide you need to hire a tax preparer, the online tool costs nothing. You only pay when you finish and file your taxes.
Here are a couple more tools to help you survive tax day:
CharityDeductions.com: ($25 per year) I’ve been cleaning out my clutter lately. And I like to get the biggest possible deduction for everything I give to charity. Keeping good records is the key. This Web site, iPhone, and iPad (CDDonation) app helps you keep those records and does the math for you. Use it all year and tax day is easier.
EITC Finder App: (Free) Are you eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit? It can save you as much as $5700. But the IRS estimates that 25 percent of people who are eligible for it, don’t claim it. How do you determine if you are eligible? And how do you claim it? Intuit built this iPhone and Android app to walk you through all of that. All for free. Here is a video explaining it.