It is no secret that the approaching day of April 15th causes stress to many. While tax season might excite some with the idea of big refunds and extra money in their pockets, the act of filing those taxes can be downright…well…taxing! With the cost of tax preparation rising, many people are turning to do-it-yourself tax services. But what if those make you sweat with nervousness just thinking about them too? The good news is, software designers have taken note and created excellent products that are budget friendly as well as user friendly.

Before you begin any do-it-yourself tax program, assess your tax situation and figure out how complex it is. Then get organized. Having your paystubs, receipts, donation forms, mileage reports and any other paperwork at your fingertips will keep the process running smoothly and save you time. As you work on your submission, make sure you have adequate time. Rushing to get done causes mistakes! Now that you are prepped, pick a program that suits your needs!

Here are the Top 5 Do-It-Yourself Programs:

1. Turbo Tax - This program can be found simply by entering their website and clicking on the program you wish to use. Programs range from FREE for a simple/basic file and includes free e-file (quick tip: e-file refers to the method of having your return sent electronically to the IRS instead of you having to mail it) to $29.95 for Deluxe (if you made donations or have multiple deductions) $49.95 for Premium (if you have real estate or investment properties) $74.95 for Home & Office combined, and $129.95 for their ultimate program great for business owners. Another perk about Turbo Tax is they can deduct the program cost from your refund requiring you to pay no money up front. There is, however, a fee if you decide to use this service.

2. H&R Block - H&R Block TaxCut (Free File version) provides free access to the TaxCut Premium software. Users have access to all of TaxCut Premium’s tools, forms, and tips. TaxCut is easy to use and fast. It does require Internet Explorer. Adding a state return costs $24.95. Overall, TaxCut is one of the very best free file software programs available according to many online polls, and it is the trusted name many people know and trust.

3. Tax Slayer – This program is a favorite among many of my friends because it is very cost effective. Simple/Basic filing that includes e-file is FREE, Classic (which allows the user to do deductions) is $9.95, and their Premier edition for more advanced filing is $19.95. Their services also include online support, audit assistance, and free filing for any active military members! They guarantee their calculations and come with great reviews.

4. CompleteTax - Complete Tax offers quick and accurate tax calculations in an interview-based software format that is user friendly. It has a simple look, nothing fancy, and overall CompleteTax seems easy to use if you have a simple tax situation. There is also a deluxe and premium edition that will run between $29.95 and $39.95. This program also includes e-file and plenty of online support. Adding a state return will cost an extra $9.95, less than most of the other programs.

5. Snap Tax - SnapTax is a newer web-based tax preparation software program from Intuit. SnapTax is super fast to work through, but there is a great deal of repetitive data entry. Snap Tax is limited to preparing 1040EZ or 1040A forms, plus the state tax forms. Overall, SnapTax is a good value for people who want to prepare their taxes quickly without a great deal of deductions. Simple filing is free with more advanced filing run around $29.95.

My tax situation is moderate since we had donations, deductions due to children, real estate interest, student loans interest, and several work related deductions. However, for the last three years I have still filed online without any complications. I am amazed at how user-friendly these programs are and how they guide you step by step using simple language and explanations. Most have help hotlines and even online chats if you should require it. My favorite part, however, is when you are done the program will scan for any errors or potential red flags. And if that is not enough, most offer guarantees of their calculations and audit assistance. I like feeling in control of my finances, and do-it-yourself tax programs allow me to do that in the comfort of my own home.

This has been a guest post by Katie from South Bend, IN
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