Filed Under:

'Consumer Reports' Offers Tips For Doing Taxes Online

Play associated audio

Tax day is looming and taxpayers are scrambling to gather receipts, W-2 forms and other documents. For many, gone are the days of paper ledger books and calculators, now that there's software to figure out how much they owe.

Tobie Stanger, a senior editor at Consumer Reports, tells NPR's Renee Montagne that when — sometimes free — online programs and smartphone apps are available, they're worth a try. "People should take advantage of it and not be afraid to try doing it yourself because you could save yourself $200 [to] $600," she says.

Stanger says Consumer Reports hasn't tested every software program and app out there, but many of them make tax preparation easier and more efficient.

Consumer Reports lists these few things to look for when preparing taxes online:

  • Investigate what documents the website supports.
  • Make sure the site can handle your state taxes.
  • Check out the complaints the site may have.
  • Don't get sucked in to floating pop-ups.
  • Think about the cost.

Here are edited highlights of the interview with Stanger:

On available digital tools

If you expect to have an adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less, the easiest thing to do is use the IRS website — it has a section called Free File. You can prepare and file your federal income taxes for free with one of 15 companies that have signed up with Free File. If you think you're going to have an adjusted gross income that's greater than that, you can use the search engine, type in "tax preparation," and a number of names should come up. One that everybody might know is TurboTax. H&R Block has its own online version, and TaxAct is a good one because everybody can file their federal return for free.

On the best and most helpful software

There are charitable deduction trackers like ItsDeductible. It works with TurboTax, but you can also use it online even if you don't use TurboTax. If you have receipts throughout the year there's something called Shoeboxed. You actually send the company your receipts, and they scan the documents for you and upload it. Then, you can then download it to your tax software or use it however you want.

On online identity theft

[Tax software developers] say they use bank-level security encryption. If you're comfortable with online banking, you can be comfortable filing your taxes online. If you find that you have trouble getting your refund because the IRS tells you somebody else took it, you should definitely contact the IRS right away.

On smartphone apps

There are apps to file 1040EZ — which is a very simple form — through TurboTax or H&R Block at Home. You photograph your W-2 form with your smartphone, and it will import your information directly into your 1040EZ; it goes into your return, and then you're able to file it directly from your smartphone or you can go online and do it.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Grisly, Humorous Dissection Of Morality In 'Anatomy Theatre'

It was once thought that evil resided inside the body. So murderers were dissected to find it. That macabre practice is the subject of a dark but funny new opera, "Anatomy Theatre."
NPR

Can Arnold Schwarzenegger Persuade China To Eat Less Meat?

Like the U.S., China is battling obesity and climate change. So it's urging citizens to eat less meat — and spreading the word with public service ads featuring Hollywood stars.
NPR

Trump Lags Behind Clinton In 'Ground Game' Support

When running for office, you need a good "ground game." Some say Trump lacks what's needed to get out the vote. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Rob Jesmer, formerly with the RNC, about what that means.
NPR

President Obama Acknowledges 'Brexit' To Silicon Valley Crowd

President Obama delivered a speech Friday at Stanford University, and remarked on the Brexit vote in front of a crowd of young, tech-forward, pro-globalization attendees from 170 countries.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.