Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Taxing times

My mom was a bookkeeper, and I think something got genetically passed down. I geek out at tax time.

For the past few years, I've done my taxes through, because it's the cheapest of the Big Three tax software packages -- $16 to prepare and e-file federal & state returns. (It looks like you can knock that down to $13 if you avoid their extra-help features.) This year, is offering free federal returns. If you're the lucky resident of a state without any state income taxes, you can do your whole tax prep and filing for free through TaxAct's system.

Why isn't all e-filing free? Because the government is running in circles to protect tax software companies. We're all shocked, I know.

Before I return to TaxAct each year, I like to read through the latest reviews to see if I should be considering any other options. For those who like the boxed software, PC World has a detailed rundown on what's new (and what's gone: rebates).

The Web programs tend to be much cheaper, and I'm too impatient to muck around with boxed applications. TaxCut seems to want $45 to file a standard (non-EZ) state and federal return online. TurboTax appears to be either $45 or $25 -- I honestly can’t tell whether the $25 fee includes both state and federal prep costs or not. All of the sites are horrendous about giving bottom-line prices. "Free e-file!" -- which they all tout -- is an utterly disingenuous claim if you have to pay for the service before it will allow you to e-file.

For those who feel like wading through a zillion options, the IRS has a lengthy list of online prep sites. It looks like I'll once again be going with TaxAct -- even if the one review I found of it from this year is pretty brutal.