Tax Day Is April 18 In 2016 & Here Are Some Services You Can Still Use To Make The Deadline
If you’ve noticed a general feeling of dread in the air, it may be because Tax Day is looming — the deadline for filing taxes in the United States falls on April 18 in 2016. If you haven’t filed yet, don’t panic; there are services you can use to file your taxes on time. If you’re a last-minute filer, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone — 13 percent of taxpayers wait until the week that taxes are due to submit their tax returns. Although feeling the weight of a scary deadline bearing down on you isn’t fun, you can still get your taxes done before Tax Day rears its terrifying head. Just take a deep breath, gather all of your tax documents (including W-2s, 1099 forms, and deduction info, like records of charitable donations or work-related expenses), and tell yourself that you can get through this.
You have a few different options when filing your taxes, and which type of service you choose will depend on how complicated your taxes are. If you have fairly straightforward taxes, you may be just fine doing your taxes on your own with the help of tax prep software and, let’s be honest, probably some wine. If you have complex taxes (say, for example, that you’re a freelancer), your best bet may be hiring a professional (but more on that below). Let’s start with the simplest options:
1. Free File
If you make less than $62,000 a year, you can get free tax filing software from the IRS. Visit the IRS Free File website, and you can choose between a variety of software options from well-known tax companies like H&R Block, TurboTax, TaxACT, and TaxSlayer. Each brand offers slightly different options (some, for example, also offer free tax returns for state taxes), so browse through the different choices to find the one that best suits your situation.
2. Pay For Online Tax Filing Software
If you don’t qualify for the IRS’s Free File, or you want an upgraded version of the filing software, you can purchase online filing software that is still pretty affordable (and much less costly than hiring a professional). In a rundown of online tax software for 2016, PC World gave TurboTax Deluxe its highest ranking. The Deluxe version costs $54.99 for federal filing and $39.99 for state returns, but many people will be just fine using TurboTax’s Federal Free Edition, which, as the name suggests, offers free federal returns, and charges $29.99 for a state return (The Deluxe version offers more thorough searching for deductions and credits). PC World also gave high rankings to TaxACT Online; TaxACT has a number of tiers of service, including a free version (that includes free federal and state returns), a Basic version for $14.99, and a Plus version for $24.99. TaxACT offers email and chat help, while TurboTax offers help with tax professionals via phone.
3. Hire A Professional (And Maybe File An Extension)
If you have more complex taxes — say, you’re a freelancer/self-employed, or you’re earning income in multiple countries, or you have complicated investments — you may best off hiring a tax professional to do your taxes. There are different types of tax people out there. An enrolled agent is a tax professional who has been licensed by the IRS, either through taking an exam or working for the IRS for five years; these people’s whole job revolves around taxes. A certified public accountant (CPA), in contrast, is a finance professional who has been certified by the state; not all CPAs specialize in taxes, so you’ll want to ask about your CPA’s experience with taxes if you’re thinking about hiring one. You can also go to a tax chains like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt, though Tobie Stanger at Consumer Reports suggests that these chains are best for “simple, straightforward returns”; if you have complicated taxes, you may want to look elsewhere. To get you started, the IRS website has a database for e-file Providers, where you can find professionals near your zip code.
When hiring a tax professional, you want to be able to do your homework and find someone you trust and with whom you feel comfortable — which, I realize, might be a tall order when you only have a few days before Tax Day. If you know of a good professional already, or a trusted friend or family member has a solid recommendation for one, then reach out to see if he or she can help you with your taxes before April 18. If you simply don’t feel like you can do your taxes on your own, and you need more time to find the right professional to do them for you, you can file for an extension on your taxes that will extend your tax deadline to October 17. It’s important to note, however, that although the extension shifts the deadline for filing your tax return, your actual taxes are still due April 18 — so if you owe money and don’t include a payment with your extension form, you can start accruing interest and late penalties on the taxes that you owe.