Biz Bits: Tips for choosing DIY tax-preparation tools
Tip of the Week
Tax season is officially here. Last year, 40 percent of Americans chose to file their own taxes - but not all do-it-yourself tax preparation tools are created equal. For those consumers who like to sit in the driver’s seat when filing, here are five tips for what to look for when choosing at-home tax preparation products.
1. Ability to work seamlessly between devices. Filing taxes can be a lengthy process, with multiple forms and pages to complete for a thorough review. Sometimes, doing it all in one sitting just isn’t in the cards. Some tax preparation tools offer consumers the ease of switching back and forth from desktop to tablet to mobile. And for those who like to file on the go, mobile-optimized tax preparation tools makes it convenient to file with any device.
2. Real-time tracking of which entries change your refund. Unless filing with a tax preparer, it can be difficult to gauge how the final refund is calculated. Some tax preparation tools offer filers the ability to track their refund in real-time, helping users understand which calculations contributed to any increases or decreases in their return.
3. Incentives to filing. Most DIY tax preparation tools offer filers the choice of receiving their refund by check or by direct deposit. However, a select few provide additional incentives for choosing their service when filing.
4. Free expert advice. Almost one-third of DIY tax filers itemize. That means additional tax forms and a more complex return than the basic 1040. For those who like to file their own taxes but feel more confident with having backup, certain tax preparation tools offer a free, real-time chat option with tax professionals to guide them along the process and answer questions as they work through forms. Certain preparers also offer consumers phone and in-person support.
5. Maximum refund at the best value. When picking a tax preparation tool, make sure to choose the one that best matches your situation at the best value. These tools are often differentiated by complexity, with the cheapest offering the simplest return to the most complicated providing tax support to small business owners.
Fake email warnings about a child predator being in the neighborhood are the latest methods scammers are using to steal personal identity information, warns the Better Business Bureau. These “community safety” alerts are designed to look official.
The subject line of a typical scam email states “Alert: A child-predator just moved into your neighborhood. Alert #123107756.” The email claims to be a notification that is automatically generated and is being sent based on the recipient’s computer IP address as well as ZIP code. Included in the message is a link to click that will provide the reader with more information about the predator.
Clicking on the link takes the user to a series of redirected site. The first linked site infects the computer. The other successive link simply distracts the user, who eventually lands on the website for a BBB Accredited Business located in Santa Barbara, California, that sells localized reports on sex offenders.
“This accredited business is being used by the ID thieves as a way to lend credibility to their email and distract from the actual scam,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “The first click of the scam email does the damage with malware that will attempt to search for stored information such as usernames, passwords and credit card numbers.”
A general rule of thumb is to never click on links in unsolicited emails. For more information use your browser to search for the business.
According to Forbes, here are some retail chains that may be headed the way of RadioShack, thanks to poor sales:
- Cabela’s Inc.
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- American Eagle
Number to Know
1921: The year RadioShack was founded. At one time, the company had stores in the U.S., Mexico, the U.K., Australia and Canada. At the time of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, RadioShacks could only be found in the U.S. and Mexico.
A recent article by CNN Money reported on how easy it is for cyber thieves to steal your tax refund. Why? All they need is your name and Social Security number. What they’ll do is file a false return and get the money, and you won’t be able to file your real return. CNN said it could take 120 days to years to clear up the matter.
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