April 15th. Does that date scare you? Well, have no fear because tax preparation software can make things run alot more smoothly come spring time. Though there are many different opinions about the real utility of tax preparation software, it can certainly be a useful time saver for those willing to spend the money.
To start, there are two main options to choose from: '''online filing devices '''and '''computer-installed software'''. If you have very complicated information to file, a desktop version is probably best, particularly if that is what you are used to in previous years. The benefits of using downloaded digital software are numerous.
* Mistakes are virtually invisible, so there is never a need to restart or erase a form because of an error.
* Errors are reduced overall because the computer automatically reproduces pertinent information.
* Choosing the right form is painless.
* By using the same software year after year (with the additional cost of the upgrade), you save time by not having to re-enter last year's information.
* In sum: it can be quick, easy and inexpensive.
For new tax filers and for those who have yet to adopt a standard tax preparation method, online tax preparation is fast, simple and usually quite secure. It also happens to be less expensive than desktop software programs. The only flaw with using online tax preparation programs is that you are required to retype all the information each year you go back to file unless otherwise stated by the company.
For more information about the government's incentive for consumers to adopt online tax filing, please visit the IRS Web site.
Features To Consider
* '''Compatibility with other software'''. If you use MS Money or Quicken to manage your finances, you will probably prefer using TaxCut or Turbo Tax, respectively.
* '''Double check rebate information'''. You might be able to get a deal on desktop software with a mail-in rebate. Learn about whether you can e-file for free after a rebate (federal only).
* '''State and federal filing'''. Check to make sure that you can e-file in your state, as well as whether or not you can complete both federal and state forms with the same software.