The season is upon us. And no, I don’t mean the holidays. Although if you aren’t careful you may end up with the same busy holiday headache. I’m talking about tax season: That joyful time of year when the papers that you’re wading through are forms and receipts instead of cards and gift wrap.
Of course, there are ways to take the whole project off of your shoulders. You can simply hire someone to go through your accounts and do the whole thing for you. But for a lot of people, that’s not a very appealing option. It still requires you to gather up all of the same scattered paperwork as you would anyway and you’ll probably end up paying a lot of money.
Another option is to prepare and file your tax returns on your own and with tax prep software, that’s not too tough. If you’re going to go with that option though, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to do your research. The types of software vary wildly and finding the best one for you is key.
You’ve got less than a month left to file your taxes, so we figured it’s time for us to step up and help you out with some brief explanations of what to look when you’re choosing your tax prep software.
First of all, you’ll have to decide between desktop or online tax software. As more and more services are transferred to the Cloud, many of us have gotten used to the convenience of online software. The primary factor that might lead you to choose desktop is the fact that the software is consistently in your control from year to year and that your information will not have to be entered again. However, this is also true with some online software so look into the specific program before you make your decision.
The next thing to do is assess your needs. A single household is going to have very different tax forms than a small business, or even than a private family with multiple incomes, investments and financial dependents. Make sure that whatever software you choose can handle all of your individual needs and can do it simply and smoothly. Software isn’t much good if you’ll end up needing to contact a professional a million times throughout the process. Take a good look at all of the features that the software offers and decide which ones are priorities and which you can compromise on.
One of the biggest to consider is audit protection. With some companies, this means that they’ll take steps to prevent you being audited while others will walk every step of the way with you in the case of an audit. Some include this service for free, while others charge extra. Decide whether or not this is important to you before you take any other steps.
Only then can you begin comparing prices. But don’t forget to check out the things that you can’t really put a price on, like human support. Even with the simplest and best software, you may end up needed some customer support. Taxes are complicated and no software can deal with every unique circumstance automatically. Fortunately, online reviews can help you figure out which company has the best support, by phone, email or even in person.
Good luck and merry tax season!