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We know the tax code is complex, and the zillions of available forms and schedules don't make things any less confusing. Doing a tax return by hand is almost impossible these days, unless you have a super simple tax situation.

Whether your tax return is easy or complicated, you'll probably have an easier time of it if you use tax software. There are great tax packages out there, including Turbo Tax and Tax Cut. They simplify the process of preparing a tax return because the software tells you what forms you need and offers them to you. No more searching the instructions or the IRS website for the forms you need. Tax software also helps cut down on errors by alerting you to important items that need to be included in your tax return.

If you're confident about your tax situation, you can certainly try using one tax software. However, filling out the software's questionnaire is no substitute for a tax preparer with in-depth knowledge of the tax laws. Use tax software with caution.

Read more Tips for Tax Procrastinators

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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Top 5 Reasons to Adjust Your W-4 Withholding

Common lifestyle changes, like getting a job or getting married, can change your tax liability. To avoid being caught off guard by an unexpected tax bill or huge tax refund, you'll need to adjust your withholdings on your paycheck.

Does Everyone Need to File an Income Tax Return?

Not everyone is required to file an income tax return each year. Generally, if your total income for the year doesn't exceed the standard deduction plus one exemption and you aren't a dependent to another taxpayer, then you don't need to file a federal tax return. The amount of income that you can earn before you are required to file a tax return also depends on the type of income, your age and your filing status.

How to Write Off Sales Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits you to write off either your state and local income tax or sales taxes when itemizing your deductions. People who live in a state that does not impose income taxes often benefit most from this deduction. However, you might also be better off deducting sales taxes instead of income taxes if you make large purchases during the year and your total sales tax payments exceed those for state income tax. You can use either the actual sales taxes you paid or the IRS optional sales tax tables.

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