Haven't Filed Yet? IRS Site Best for Free Tax Tools
To get your particular return done, just start clicking. And up will come the correct form -- in my case, an interactive PDF on LLC filings. Then simply fill in the numbers, do the math as required. And hit print. What you end up with looks to me an awful like what QuickBooks or Xero cranks out.
Now, obviously, a professional accountant's review is important. And tools like QuickBooks and Xero offer other features, like invoicing and payroll. But for pure tax prep? Who needs 'em? Financial institutions like Citi, Chase and American Express all provide sophisticated account breakdowns for free as part their services. So assuming you have a feel for your numbers, have filed returns in the past and understand the basics of expenses, interest deductions and things like capital gains, IRS.gov works perfectly well.
An unconscious coup?
IRS spokespeople frankly chuckled when I called up to talk through the notion that their services were putting the tax software business out of business. Clearly the IRS is not staying up at night cramming Das Kapital. But what is happening is the agency is finally taking service seriously.
The organization brought in a bright, Harvard-educated fellow named Douglas Shulman to improve usability. And guess what, he has. In remarks to the National Press Club earlier this year Shulman showed off impressive stats for improved IRS efficiency, including effectively doubling user satisfaction.
"The IRS is now recognized as a highly efficient and effective institution to carry out important and high profile government initiatives," Shulman said in his remarks to the National Press Club earlier in April.
The bottom line is, as the tax deadline approaches, individuals and business -- with just a bit of professional help to make sure they are getting the proper deductions -- can absolutely use government-provided tools to do their taxes. No extra help from the private sector is needed.
Hugo Chavez could not have planned it out any better.