Unfortunately, a lot of women think they need professional help to file their taxes. This is simply not true – between 50-75 Million taxpayers do their own taxes every year. If you can mix a martini, raise a kid, build a career and plan a weeks worth of meals, you can do your own taxes. I did a whole post on how to feel confident doing your own taxes and think of them as self care, but the big girl move is to get free tax prep.
Additionally, there is a whole tax prep industry to try to get you to pay for the privilege of paying your taxes. Unnecessarily. Most taxpayers can file their taxes FOR FREE.
According to ProPublica, around 104 million taxpayers were eligible for Free File in 2019 – two-thirds of taxpayers. How many people filed for free? About 2.4%.
I want to show you how to do your taxes without paying a CPA every year.
Use TurboTax for free tax preparation
One thing you might have noticed if you’ve used an accountant – they probably used TurboTax software complete your tax return. You can use TurboTax on your own, for free tax prep, and get exactly the same benefits.
It doesn’t involve a steep learning curve, and even if your taxes are complex (waves hand), it’s very easy to use. Sign up for the “Free Edition” on their website (not a paid link) rather than the free file edition through the IRS. IRS edition is too limited and you can’t port it over.
TurboTax’s “Pros” are numerous. They make it easy to use, it has all U.S. states included for state taxes, plus has a solid reputation with professionals, and handles more tax returns than any software, so all the weird corner cases are built in.
The “Cons” – there are a couple. First, they are going to try to upsell you to a paid tier whether you need it or not. It’s annoying. If you actually need to upgrade, look for a promo code. I get a discounted version of the upgrade through Amazon or Costco. Second, if you pay them, you are funding the lobbying that keeps our tax system expensive, complex and inequitable. Some have a legit moral opposition to paying TurboTax and HR Block for this reason.
Free File with Taxslayer
Did you know the IRS offers a Free File system? By partnering with various companies, they allow you to file federal and possibly state taxes for free if you make under $72,000 per year. A good chunk of Americans make well under that.
Go directly on the IRS site and pick your poison using the “Start Lookup” tool, to find the best offer for your state and tax situation. I’ve personally used TaxSlayer, since it’s the software IRS VITA volunteers use, and its good, if not flashy. It also covers a higher income range than other partners, and more states.
Don’t Try to Complete tax Forms Directly
You *can* complete your taxes directly through the forms on the IRS website, for free. I vote you do NOT embrace this free tax prep, unless you are a CPA. Why?
- Most tax prep software has the latest rulings from the IRS baked in. In 2021, the IRS is making changes well into March. Let Turbotax and TaxSlayer worry about keeping on top of that.
- Tax Software will apply credits automagically – a lot of federal programs are mirrored in state tax code. Your tax software will look for them at both the federal and state level, based on your demographic and income level. I have not yet found a credit Taxslayer didn’t apply before I got there (I will keep trying, tho!)
- Some tax calculations are stupidly complex. Don’t even get me started on self-employment withholding. The software will calculate it all for you.
- Tax software makes it easy to see how different parts of your life impact your tax situation. You can add and remove dependents or deductions to see what happens. While it needs to be correct when you file it, this is a great way to life plan.
Find a VITA/VCE site to do your taxes for free
Maybe your taxes are more complicated than you can or want to handle, or you just want a wingwoman. (Or a wingdude). For the last 50 years, the IRS has sponsored a volunteer program where meganerds do your taxes for free. I am one of them.
Find a site near you or google “VITA free tax prep [your county]”. In 2021, we’re all working virtually, so you don’t have to worry about Covid. Just find something in your state.
Volunteers go through a certification program to become a tax expert. We work with a wide range of families and tax situations. Plus, you can file your more complicated taxes without having to pay a CPA or for tax software.
Try Credit Karma’s free Tax Prep
We’re hearing a lot of great things about the free tax prep through Credit Karma. While a little different from TurboTax, it’s an entirely free platform for filing. Apparently, it’s far less salesy than TurboTax. On the other hand, some say it’s a little less robust.
What’s most important is all the above options allow you to claim the EIC, other child tax credits, unemployment, plus any of the stimulus money you didn’t get.
Just be sure to check they cover your states, in addition to any other particular tax circumstances applying to you.
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