There are numerous variations of a joke you always hear at business conferences that start with “I’m from the IRS, and I’m here to help you.”
Well, when it comes to filing taxes online, it’s not a joke. Using eFile from the IRS is an incredibly easy and fast way to file your taxes and (hopefully) get the refund that you deserve. Just go to www.irs.gov/efile, and follow the steps that are outlined. All you need is your basic data your W-2 forms, 1099 forms, mortgage interest form, etc. If you have a reasonably plain-vanilla tax situation, you can do whole thing in less than 2 hours. Maybe a lot less.
There are a couple of commercial software programs that are even easier to use than the IRS’s form, and which do a slightly better job of guiding you to obvious tax breaks. I like TurboTax, which is at www.turbotax.com. This costs as little as $10 (and not too much more if you need to file multiple forms). The guidance is really good, and the forms are up-to-date on things like the telecom rebate that all of us can get, and how to file info about Health Savings Accounts.
A lot of people like a competing product called Tax-Act, which is at www.taxact.com. I’m not personally familiar with it, but it’s in the same price range as TurboTax, and it’s also aimed at the person with a fairly simple return. The thing I have heard about Tax-Act, which I don’t like, is that once it gets your financial info, you will start getting a lot of financial solicitations from the company and its “partners.” So you will get crap for credit cards, mortgage refinancing, insurance, and so on. I have not had a big problem with that from TurboTax, but I have no idea if the two tax software companies actually have different policies about these additional sales efforts.
One other note. As several people have written, all of these online services also enable you to ask for your refund to be directly deposited in your bank account. So you can get this whole thing done really, really fast and get on with the enjoyable things in your life.