Doing Your Own Taxes to Save Money

Don't be frightened. Don't be intimidated. If you're careful and diligent about keeping records then doing your own taxes is a viable option at tax time.

| March/April 1979

  • 056 doing your own taxes - stokkete - Fotolia.jpg
    It won't ever be simple exactly, but doing your own taxes doesn't have to be this way either.

  • 056 doing your own taxes - stokkete - Fotolia.jpg

It's been my observation that people who have their finances well under control generally fill out their own federal income tax returns, while those in continual financial difficulties rarely do. And, although doing your own taxes certainly isn't a cure-all for money problems, it can definitely lead to a better understanding of personal and business finances. In fact, just learning how to deal with this yearly tax obligation is often an important step toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle.

Free Assistance

It isn't as difficult to prepare your own tax return as you may imagine. If you can read and follow simple instructions, make elementary math calculations, look up numbers in tables, and ask questions about whatever you don't understand, you're already "equipped" to tackle those imposing forms!

Almost everything you'll need to know to do the job yourself can be found in the instruction booklet that contains your tax forms. And answers to just about any "special case" questions can be located in the free publications that the Internal Revenue Service will send you on request. When those questions arise—or when you need to order a publication—you can also take advantage of the toll-free WATS lines (or local telephone numbers for large cities) that are provided by the Taxpayers Assistance Division: Just look in the white pages of your telephone book under "U.S. Government". On top of that, most public libraries have information on tax preparation, and some even subscribe to professional tax services.

But, you certainly don't need to take special courses or buy additional tax manuals, since most of the latter are nothing more than paraphrased and rearranged versions of the free IRS publications, anyway!

Which Forms, When?

If all your income is listed on W-2 forms (except perhaps for specified minor amounts of interest and dividends) and if you don't itemize deductions, the short form (1040A) is usually your best bet. If you quality to use this form, just follow the instructions. There's absolutely no reason for you to pay $5.00 or $10.00 to watch someone else perform this relatively simple task.

On the other hand, if all or part of your income is derived from your homestead, small farm, or home business—or if you itemize deductions—the long form (1040) is the one to use. Of course, additional schedules are usually required with this form, but don't let 'em scare you. Here again, tax return preparers often charge $5.00 to $10.00 for the 1040 form, plus $5.00 and up for each additional schedule. You can save that money by simply following instructions.

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