Can preparing your taxes really be this easy?

Preparing your own income tax returns doesn’t have to be a nightmare anymore. Online income tax preparation services like H&R Block, Tax Act, CompleteTax and TurboTax.com can make the process quite painless. Don’t believe it? Follow these simple steps and see for yourself!

Open an account at either H&R Block, Tax Act, CompleteTax or TurboTax.com (if you don’t already have one). Each service offers editions that are priced according to the complexity of your return, so examine them carefully to find the one that will do what you need for the lowest price. Even though you have to choose one of the editions to open your online account, you won’t have to pay anything until you’re ready to either file your return electronically or prepare the final print-out.

Log into your account and make sure that all of your personal information is entered and ready to go. If you filed a return through that service last year, simply follow the instructions to import the required information into this year’s return. If this is the first time you’ve used an online tax preparation service, just follow the prompts to manually enter the necessary information from your hard copies of last year’s income tax forms. Give yourself a pat on the back when you’re done because you’ve already started preparing your income tax return!

Your income statements will trickle in during the months of January and February, but you can start entering your deductible expenses at any time. Entering your expenses into your online tax return is fast and easy. Just select the category of expense you want to enter, tally the numbers, and move on to the next category. If you use money management software like Quicken, you can make the process even easier by simply uploading your expense data once you’ve made the final entries for the year.

You should have the expense side of your income tax return nearly finished when the income statements start to roll in. Do yourself a favor and enter them into your online return immediately, then file them away for good. By the time you enter your last income statement, your tax return will be nearly complete and you can start thinking about how you’re going to spend that tax refund!

Once all of your income and expense statements have been entered, the online tax preparation services will conduct a free automated review. This review will check for errors and for any possible deductions you may have missed. If all goes well, your online federal tax return will be ready to file.

For an additional fee, the services will import your federal tax data into a state tax return and guide you through a short process to complete it. The state tax return will then be automatically reviewed and verified.

At this point, you have the option of printing out drafts of your returns and taking them to a human income tax consultant. The consultant can either mark up your forms for you to change online, or you can give him or her your online account information to have it done for you.

When you’re ready to file your income tax returns, you can choose to file them electronically (e-file) or print them out and mail them through the post office. You’ll have to pay the online tax preparation service fee at this time.

If you file electronically, you’ll be asked to check back in a few days to verify that your returns were accepted by their respective agencies.

That’s it! You’re done for another year. Your tax returns will remain available in your account so that you can print additional copies if you need them. You’ll also be able to import the data into next year’s return.

The key to improving your tax preparation experience is to work on your returns gradually as information becomes available. Online income tax preparation services like H&R Block, Tax Act, CompleteTax and TurboTax.com help you to do that by allowing you to make entries that are days and weeks apart without losing any continuity. Your information will always be exactly how you left it the last time you logged in. Furthermore, you’ll be able to work with your tax documents in easy-to-manage bundles instead of having to wade through an intimidating pile.

 Do yourself a favor and take your income tax preparation online. The nightmare is over!

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