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Tax prep services for free

If you have a relatively simple financial life, don’t pay someone to do your taxes this year. There are several options available for free tax preparation and e-filing.

The Free File program continues this year through the IRS. This program allows people who have adjusted gross incomes of $57,000 or less to have their taxes prepared and e-filed for free. (That income limit applies to about 70 percent of all taxpayers, according to the IRS website.)

When you click on the Free File link above, you’ll be able to see a list of participating private organizations that you can use to prepare and file your return for free. This service is available in either all states or select states, depending on the company. Well-known companies and others that are not so well known are represented on the IRS list.

I think the Free File program can be a real snap, unless you have a complicated situation. In that case, you’re probably better off hiring a tax professional to do your taxes for you.

In related news, H&R Block is offering free smartphone tax prep and filing for people who use the very basic 1040 EZ tax form. You simply take a picture of your W-2 and let them do the work. Meanwhile, TurboTax has a similiar app called SnapTax.

If you have a more complicated tax situation, such as you have a brokerage account or taxable mutual fund accounts or you own your own business, then do yourself a favor and delay doing your taxes. If you do your taxes too early, especially for those who have a brokerage account or a taxable mutual fund account, all too often you’ll get a corrected 1099 and you’ll have to start all over and re-file your taxes. The paperwork is so complicated that financial houses often make errors and you’re left to clean up the mess.

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