Nothing strikes a note of fear into the heart of the average person more than taxes. I learned this from doing taxes for several years in a CPA office. I saw clients come in with several years of unfiled returns. They were totally unable to confront getting the taxes filed. The really sad fact is that most of them lost the refunds they would have gotten by filing on time because the IRS doesn’t refund if the return is over 3 years late.
But that fear is now largely unfounded. Everyone has heard horror stories of past strong-arm tactics by the IRS that were frightening. Those days are over.
In the last ten to fifteen years, the IRS has undertaken reforming themselves and rehabilitating their image. The only way the IRS can take legal action against you is if you intentionally try to defraud the government. Intentionally is the key word. The tax system for individuals is still voluntary as regards filing. If you don’t file a tax return, eventually the IRS will file it for you. They will not take advantage of any of the tax credits or possible deductions outside of the standard deduction. But there really is no need to fear.
Tax software has brought accurate, reliable tax preparation to the individual. You can do it yourself with free tax software. It isn’t foolproof but not for want of trying by Intuit. The IRS tax code and its several thousand pages gives a whole new meaning to the word complex. I have the utmost respect for the programmers who write tax software.
Filing your own federal and state tax returns has become simple. If you only have W-2 income, it probably won’t take more than 30 minutes start to finish. The software takes you down the road of filing without having to even look at a tax form until the end of the process. If you operate a small business as a sole proprietor (not incorporated), the software will help you gather everything you need to classify expenses and deductions and get them entered properly. You can even file your 1040EZ tax return on a PDA or smartphone.
So the fear factor is gone. Even if you file your taxes and later realize there was another deduction that you could have taken, TurboTax will walk you through filing an amended return to get those deductions and/or credits you are entitled to.
So take a deep breath, and get to it. Relax……………………
Dwight Mabe is a freelance writer and financial advisor based out of Greensboro, NC.