Income Tax Preparation Services

Expert tax preparation assistance is available to eligible taxpayers through several programs sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service. A little known fact is that many taxpayers can qualify for free income tax preparation services through various public programs sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service. While professional preparers typically charge $30 to $150 to prepare Form 1040 for individuals filing federal and state returns, the IRS makes it simple for U.S. citizens who qualify. Taxpayers earning low-to-middle incomes, usually less than $40,000, don't have to pay through the nose to pay Uncle Sam or to get refunds that rightfully belong to them. And while the IRS allows individuals to claim money spent on getting returns prepared, they also provide ways to get free assistance. Filers with low-to-moderate incomes, the elderly, the disabled, and members of the U.S. Armed Forces can all take advantage of programs to alleviate the cost of filing.

To some, relieving low-income taxpayers from the obligation of paying for tax preparation assistance may seem insignificant; but America has a moral obligation to care for those citizens who need assistance the most. A similar Biblically sound principle is found in the Book of Leviticus. Wealthy landowners would intentionally leave fruit, grain, and vegetation un-harvested so that the poor could glean the corners of the field and gather enough to be sustained. "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:9-10).

The IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Program, or VITA, breathes new life into the annual return preparation process. VITA employs IRS-trained and certified volunteer preparers from various community organizations, colleges, and the military to assist eligible citizens each year from February 28th through April 15th. Taxpayers filing basic returns, such as Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ discover that filing is fast, accurate and easy when they take advantage of this free federally-funded service. VITA sites can advise individual filers regarding new deductions and credits, such as the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly. VITA sites are easily accessible and located in public places, such as libraries, senior centers, schools, or shopping malls. VITA income tax preparation services also provide e-filing and direct deposits into taxpayer bank accounts. Instead of waiting on "snail mail" refunds, e-filers can get their money in half the time; and direct deposit refunds are usually posted within days.

For seniors living on a fixed income, paying for filing returns can be cost prohibitive. But, elderly filers age 60 and older may qualify for free tax preparation assistance through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program. Trained and certified volunteer preparers may work through local non-profit organizations under IRS-sponsored federal grants. TCE sites are usually conveniently accessible to seniors: public schools, shopping malls, senior centers, neighborhood centers. Under the TCE Program, the American Association of Retired Persons, nationally known as AARP, offers a free Tax-Aide program to assist low-to-median income seniors. Elderly taxpayers can browse the AARP web site for more information and to find local, volunteer-operated Tax-Aide offices.

Military personnel who put their life on the line every day to protect the country shouldn't have to open their wallets to pay for tax preparation. The military provides a VITA program implemented through its Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC). Consisting of program coordinators for all five branches of the service: the Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army, and National Guard, the AFTC provides counseling and tax preparation assistance to service men and women and their spouses, relevant to military careers. While John Q. Public has easy access to information about basic filing procedures, credits and allowances; Private First Class Smith might have a myriad of concerns due to the nature of military service. The Earned Income Tax Credit may take into account income earned through combat. Separation from spouses due to overseas assignments brings up difficult revenue issues that AFTC personnel can help resolve. Overseas assignments can also necessitate e-filing so that refunds can be quickly deposited in stateside bank accounts. The IRS provides expert training and software to equip service personnel who volunteer at AFTC/VITA military sites.

Before paying hard earned cash for preparing returns, taxpayers should log onto the IRS website to see if they qualify for free income tax preparation services. Volunteer sites usually work on an appointment-only basis and filers are required to bring several items to have returns prepared. Filers should present current photo identification; a valid drivers license or state issued identification card is acceptable. A Social Security card or verification letter will provide preparers and the IRS with the correct number for each filer. Spouses filing jointly should each present a valid Social Security card. Taxpayers should also bring correct birth dates for themselves, spouses and dependents. Filers need to present all W-2s, W2Gs and 1099s from employers as proof of earnings during the year. Federal and state returns from the previous year are also relevant when preparing current returns. E-filers who want to have refunds deposited directly into bank accounts should have routing and account numbers on hand, along with dividend statements as proof of additional income. For more information on free income tax preparation services, log onto IRS or AARP websites. Local community services organizations, senior citizen councils, colleges and universities and public welfare agencies may also have information on free preparation and counseling services.

Tax Accounting Software

Using tax accounting software is a cost effective way to file taxes according to state and federal guidelines as well as to manage all filing concerns. Everyone needs tax accounting services at one point or other whether it is outsourcing it to someone else or doing it at home on the computer. People who are not concerned with business management and who mainly operate their household from a stable income base, may be more inclined to use some of the online submission sites for a small fee. For those who operate small businesses or handle home based employment, a more substantial accounting method may be necessary as well as helpful.

There are many versions of tax accounting software to chose from that fit either a small home office or a large cooperate business office. For most small businesses or for home based interests, software that allows integration with other financial management programs may be the most advantageous. Software that automatically offers state returns is useful especially if there are several areas to consider when filing. Some versions of software offer federal forms as well as information on the correct preparation of forms and some IRS tips. Some financial management software is compatible and easily integrates financial information with its program.

When considering purchasing an accounting software over using professional services, remember that there will be some cost associated with the purchase. Software can be expensive and even when purchased, the cost of online filing is not included. Calculating the purchase price, online filing and the personal time involved when doing one's own returns can encourage some to choose tax accounting services instead of filing on their own. By the time all these purchases have been made, it may be worthwhile in some cases, to just let a service down the road deal with the headaches of spring filing especially when household or small business finances are straightforward.

Some small businesses and home based jobs have many financial things to consider when dealing with year end returns. Such things as incorporation issues, partnerships, credit and debt, profit margins, business expenditures and tax breaks are just a few of the many topics that are covered with professional accounting services. Then there are the personal returns for household earnings and expenditures that must be covered. For those who have several bank accounts, multiple holdings, businesses and personal assets as well, it is very difficult to handle complicated matters with tax accounting software while sitting at the kitchen table.

Many consumers have found themselves at the mercy of the IRS because of poorly handled finances and mismanaged business dealings. Sometimes just the financial management of a household is enough to send a consumer running to find tax accounting services. A typical household filing includes information regarding wages, dependents claimed, social security information, state and federal income requirements and any retirement withdrawals. Housing costs which included rental or mortgage payments as well as any other property purchased for investments are also required information for taxes. All information about family members including date of birth, SS numbers and household status is required in order to determine exemptions for children and education credits.

Child care costs can also be filed in order to receive expense credits applied toward the yearly income. If child care is provided in a day care setting, the
tax ID number of the business must be provided in order to qualify for credits. Other financial transactions must be declared such as any retirement that has been taken out of a 401K plan, the sale of any stocks, and declaration of any dividends received during the year. Many people find that simply the household filings are too complicated to file with tax accounting software and prefer to file with one of the reputable tax accounting services.

Money saving tips and financial management tools can be found in good tax accounting software programs for those who wish to learn the ropes for filing their own taxes every spring. For those who need more help, there are accounting services that provide quick, reliable service without the headache of doing it alone. For some, it may be necessary to retain the competent services of an accounting firm who can guide a business through he murky waters of tax time as well as offer expert advice on money management throughout the year. "The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever." (Psalm 37:18)

Money saving advice for businesses include issues such as when to make non-profit contributions for write offs, how to get certain credits and how to handle retirement and benefit plans for employees. There are many issues that must be accounted for according to federal guidelines and handing these business concerns over to trusted tax accounting services can help keep a business or individual on the proper financial balance for one of the sure things in life...taxes.

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