Last-Minute Tax Preparation

With the Paschal moon hanging above us, thus signaling the beginning of Passover, the US tax filing deadline also hangs above us.

Like I’ve done for the last few years, I procrastinated until the last minute to file because I regularly have to send checks to both the federal and state governments. One of the many inequities of the American tax system is that someone who cobbles together a living from multiple sources usually has to pay when he or she files. When I start collecting a stack of W2s and the occasional 1099 in February, I start dreading preparing my tax return because I know I’m writing some big checks in April.

The Bostonian’s Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring & Feathering, 1774

The Bostonian’s Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring & Feathering, 1774. Image via New York Historical Society, Image # 27307.

In years past, I usually either do my taxes on paper by hand or send them to an accountant. This year, I was short on time and money so I resorted to tax software.

Based on the recommendation from The Wirecutter’s Kevin Purdy, I went with the horribly named FreeTaxUSA. When I told one friend what I used to prepare my taxes, she joking asked, “Do they also offer check cashing and pay-day loans?”

Purdy’s article recommended three software packages: TurboTax for most everyone, TaxACT for people with more time and more complex situations, and FreeTaxUSA for experienced tax filers. Since I started working multiple jobs, I have learned as much as I can to optimize my tax situation, and I really didn’t need to answer questions about specific “life events.” I simply needed to report a bunch of numbers and calculate the allowable deductions. This was also very cheap: $13 for filing both a federal and state return, regardless of income.

Try it if this sounds like your approach to preparing your income tax returns.

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