Free DIY Tax Services ?

So, tax time is here.  This year there are increasing numbers of organizations that are offering to do your taxes for free.  FREE can be good.  This may be a way for you to save some funds.   There are a couple of things however, that you may want to keep in mind.

  1. Ensure that the company making the offer is a valid company, and not just an organization harvesting information and potentially stealing your tax refund and your identity.
  2. Only a few companies are offering completely free tax computation with no conditions. 
  3. Several companies limit their free offerings based on any of these factors, your income, the type of return you need to file, e.g. 1040EZ, 1040A, 1040, or the complexity of your return.  Read the fine print. 
  4. Some companies that offer free returns will upgrade their services for a fee.  In some cases, you may be informed of the charges ahead of time, though several will allow you to complete the return, before informing you of the additional charge.  Of course, after you have worked hard on your return, possibly for hours, you really don’t want to be surprised.  By then they have you captive, they expect you to throw your hands up and just pay the fee to “get it over with.”   You always have a choice.
  5. If your return is a 1040EZ consider saving money with a no-charge service.  However, simply because you used a 1040 EZ last year doesn’t mean that, that is still the form you should file this year.  Make sure that you have some assistance in determining if you are filing the correct form.
  6. If your return is still simple and your life events haven’t changed, then you may actually want to try the free service and compare the output to your previous year’s return(s).  Caveat: There is rarely a case where all your numbers will be exactly the same, from year to year.
  7. If you have an obviously complex tax return, or If you cannot find your way around a tax form, consider contacting a tax advisor, tax return preparer, CPA, lawyer etc.   The costs of the professional are often returned on the bottom line of your return several times over, reducing your liability as much as legally possible, avoiding additional tax payments or receiving the largest refund possible.
  8. Some tax professionals will review your DIY return for a fee, ensuring that you aren’t missing out on any refunds or credits, that you hadn’t thought about.

If you have used a free service, please share with our nation your experience.  Was it good, bad?  Would you do so again?  Did you end up paying a fee when you thought it would be free?  

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