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By Kenneth Long on January 22, 2010
Personal income taxes are a terrible chore for most of us. Tax filing season comes once a year and many of us decide to wait until the last minute to file.
Why do we hate filing taxes so much? It can be confusing, we may owe money and we dread having to pay someone hundreds of dollars for half an hour of work. Filing taxes doesn’t have to be so bad. Here are some ways to get relief.
You can do your own taxes with the help of a software program. Most programs like TurboTax, TaxACT or TaxSlayer are quite popular and normally sell for around $25-60.
Alternatively, you may access many of these same products online at no charge through the Internal Revenue Service’s Free File partnership. Only low and moderate income households may file for free using one of these products. Keep in mind that while the federal tax filing may be free, you frequently have to pay up to $20 to file your state income tax return. Most states piggyback off of the federal return. Therefore, if you are up to the challenge, you can frequently fill your own state returns and mail them in based on the figures you obtained on your federal return, thereby avoiding a fee.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and community organizations that provide free income tax preparation and filing. It is free to file both federal and state tax returns with refunds direct deposited usually in as little as 10 days. VITA volunteers are especially familiar with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), child tax credits and educational tax credits.
AARP’s TaxAide program also files income tax returns for free, including both federal and state returns. TaxAide volunteers are familiar with some of the more complicated issues that many seniors routinely must document in their taxes, such as retirement distributions or investments.
For more information, contact the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040. Ask them about free filing options.
Most importantly, avoid gimmicky tax preparers that emphasize refund anticipation loans (RALs). These companies charge excessive fees, make frequent mistakes that you are responsible for and often employ poorly trained preparers that focus more on selling you unnecessary products.