Mastering the complications of the tax code does not come easily. Professionals spend many hours of study and continue to do so over the course of their careers to maintain a professional level of knowledge on the ever-changing laws. Lay people who wish to do their own taxes benefit by using professionally created tax preparation software.
Intuit's TurboTax ranks among the best-known software programs for filing tax returns. Intuit claims that by using their product filers will receive larger tax returns. The company also claims that using their system will result in fewer mistakes while filing. The company offers products for filing personal taxes or for small businesses.
TurboTax has three options to access their products. Users can use the online version of TurboTax on their website, download the software to their hard drive, or purchase a CD of the program. While the online option costs less and may seem convenient, many people might hesitate to put such important personal information online. Intuit, however, claims their site has adequate security.
Produced by Second Story Software, TaxAct allows anyone to register and create their federal tax returns free of charge. Users who prefer to avoid online programs have the option of downloading the program for their Windows-based computers for free. Free CD's of the program are available with a small shipping and handling charge. Their services also include the option to e-file their completed return for free.
TaxAct also offers filing software products for state returns. Purchasing the program for a state allows users to have the information entered in the free federal return program automatically inserted into the state return.
H&R Block At-Home
Well known tax return giant H&R Block has a tax return program available for do-it-yourself use called At-Home, formerly known as "Tax Cut". The software comes in online or downloadable versions for both Windows and Macintosh computers.
The program has several levels of services available as packages. The free version includes basic features needed to complete income tax forms. The more advanced, and pricier, versions offer such features as access to live help from tax experts, audit support, tools helping allow for sale of stocks or bonds and Schedule C assistance.
The IRS has consulted with the manufacturers of TurboTax, TaxCut and TaxACT, to come up with a free online federal tax software for filers making less than $56,000 annually. The program also offers free e-filing of federal taxes. Only available through the IRS website, this program only has an online option. No options exist for the preparation of state taxes.