File Your Taxes for Free and Other Tax Preparation Tips

Tax return checkTax day is just a few months away, and if you haven’t already, it’s time to start settling up with Uncle Sam. If you’re expecting a refund, go on, get your money. If you owe, you don’t have to write the check until April, but can plan over the next few months.

A few tax preparation tips:

  • If your adjusted gross income was $57,000 or less, you qualify for free file tax software. Go to to find out which company you are eligible for.
  • Alternatively, anyone can file federal taxes for free using a tax service website like FreeTaxUSA. The catch is that these websites will generally try to up-sell additional services such as filing your state taxes or manual review of your work. You can simply decline and continue to file your federal taxes for free. Keep in mind that these free federal filing services do not include a manual audit of your taxes so make sure you double check your work.  The free federal filing is best for those who typically file using the 1040 or 1040EZ forms.
  • Many states now offer free e-filing for your state taxes. To learn if your state offers free online filing, please visit your state’s franchise tax board website .
  • You can get your refund in as few as 10 days when you e-file and choose direct deposit.
  • Wondering where your money is? Download the free IRS2Go smart phone app to check your refund status on the go.
  • Stumped on a tax issue? The IRS Interactive Tax Assistant will ask you a series of questions to give you a personalized answer to your tax queries.
  • Once you have 2011 squared away, get organized for 2012.  Use OfficeMax coupons to help you save on all the materials that you’ll need.  Create new paper files and computer files to organize your receipts.
  • Lastly, start racking up tax deductions for next year. Skip the garage sale and give your unwanted items to an organization like the Salvation Army. They value bicycles up to $80, vacuums up to $65 and jackets up to $12. Find out more with the complete Salvation Army Valuation Guide.

Final Word: Tax time will be less stressful if you start now. Get 2011 wrapped up, then get organized for 2012. It’s much easier to stay on top of tax issues throughout the year than wait and scramble at the end.

The article above was written by our newest contributor – Jeanette Pavini – an Emmy award-winning consumer reporter and personal finance columnist for The Wall Street Journal Digital Network.