Money Matters: A Click Away From Help with Your Taxes!
I am currently staring at four W2′s, which are piled neatly on my desk next to my laptop. My dad has informed me that two more are at my parent’s house, and I need to call the restaurant I worked at last spring because I’m pretty sure they don’t have my current address. Oh, and I’m expecting at least three 1099′s for freelance work.
It’s not that I change jobs like I change my underwear. Last spring, I waited tables and worked for a travel website on my days “off.” I also had one week in January where I was paid for work study from the Fall ’07 semester. Over the summer, I worked Summerstock at a theater. Last semester, I had a paid internship, and I did marketing work for a parent company, so each of the branches I marketed for are considered a separate entity.
What the hell am I going to do? You might be asking yourself the same thing, even if you’ve only held a normal number of jobs (one, two… three?) in the past year. I mean, all the pointless Gen Eds they make us take, and none of them are “Filing Your Taxes 101.” Don’t worry. If the IRS expected everyone to file their taxes on their own, well… it would be like George W. getting reelected.
Here are a few resources I’ve come across as I’ve begun my slow descent into the Hell that is my personal tax season. Feel free to share any other links that you’ve come across. We all want to make it out of college without being arrested for tax fraud.
1. The IRS Themselves.
This handy-dandy little page includes links for everything from the generic “Help With Tax Questions,” to “How Do You Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity?” to “IRS.gov Web Policies.” That last one might be a good link to check out. Before you attempt to conquer your taxes alone, or spend the money on a consultant, you may want to check out the “Help Finding a Specific Form or Publication” page, which allows you to locate the documents you need by topic.
Are you reading this column, and fear it’s already too late? The IRS has a Taxpayer Advocate Service. Hallelujah.
2. H & R Block
One of the leading names in tax assistance, the H & R Block website has easy access to tax professionals, as well as online options “for any budget.” If you’ve already been to a tax pro, you can search for him or her here, and if you’ve never been, you can filter all of the H & R reps through location or area of expertise. They have a free online service that claims to be “simple,” as well as programs for a mere $40 and up. Hey, if doing your taxes correctly means a big ass rebate, $40 is chump change.
If you’re still having trouble, try the customer service support or the Income Tax Course, which includes tips on how to get started on your taxes.
The “Tax Tips” on the main page not only include a link just to resources for college students, but a Tax Estimator to break the big news before you hire a professional. Like H & R Block, TurboTax has online software, ranging from free programs to a customized $29.95 deal. Not too shabby.
4. Tax Help Online
This site may not have the brand recognition of H & R Block or Turbo Tax, but with tabs like “Tax Help Now!”, “Ask the Expert,” “IRS Problem Solver,” and “Situation Analysis,” it’s pretty appealing. Compiled by Dan Pila, Tax Help Online also has a bloglike newsletter with featured articles like this month’s Standard Mileage Rates for 2009. The con? You have to pay for a lot of special features, and there are certain topics that Pila can’t address here, though the site can help you find a tax pro close to you.
5. Your Dad
Hop on your Gmail, and email your pops, or some other reliable family member, if you’re still having trouble. They’ve been doing taxes a lot longer than usual, and may be able to point you in the direction of a trusted tax advisor, the best program for you, or, if you’re lucky, volunteer to do your taxes for you. My dad has done my taxes for me in the past, though this year I’m on my own. But he still has some recommendations for where I can get my tax help without spending hours filing through Google search results.