The Washington Post

Tax day sneak up on you? File fast online

It’s a classic story: You got your W-2 forms way back in February, got your papers in order to file your taxes and then called it a day. Suddenly it’s mid-April and you realize you never took the last step — to file.

There’s some good news. For one, tax day wasn’t April 15 this year, it’s been moved to April 17. That’s thanks to some fortuitous calendar coincidences, as the traditional tax day fell on Sunday this year, followed by the D.C. holiday, Emancipation Day. If you haven’t prepared your taxes yet, however, this is no time to take a break.

Lucky for you, we live in an era in which technology has made paperwork a much less frustrating ordeal. There are a few tax apps that you may want to consider to help you wade through all those checkboxes and forms.

There's still time to e-file, which will eliminate panic over mailbox pickup deadlines and a potentially deadly rush to the post office. If your income is $57,000 or less, the IRS even has set up a way for you to file for free using a third-party tax preparation service to keep you from having to wade through the paperwork yourself. Qualifying filers can choose from 15 services, though each have their own limits on who is eligible for the free prep.

If you don’t meet those qualifications but don’t want to go it alone, there are several companies that are happy to help you for a fee online. One of the biggest, TurboTax, is good for more complicated returns and walks users through complications such as income earned from contract jobs or investments. The same is true of H&R Block, another popular online filing service. Fees for H&R Block start at $19.95 for federal taxes; TurboTax’s is free for federal, but state taxes cost $39.95 per state. If you have more complicated taxes, you can sign on to the company’s $49.95 Federal service. Both services also have some mobile apps to answer some of your tax questions.

For really simple files, try a program like TaxAct Online or TaxSlayers, which are also a part of the IRS’ free file program. These are good for simpler taxes and have cheaper fees — the deluxe edition of TaxAct Online is just $17.95 and the premium edition of TaxSlayer is $19.95 — but they don’t handle complicated returns quite as well.

If you’ve already sent your forms off to the government and are entitled to a refund, there are a few ways to track your upcoming windfall. Any time you check your refund status, you’ll need the same information — your Social Security number, filing status and the exact amount of your expected refund.

The IRS has its own quick, easy service for tracking refunds online; a service aptly named “Where’s my refund?” You can check the service 72 hours after e-filing or four weeks after mailing in your forms. The IRS also has its own app, IRS2Go, which will require the same information. There are also a couple of other apps out there that will help you track your tax refund, such as Intuit’s MyTaxRefund app or H&R Block’s Tax Central.

You can also check your filing status by phone, though the IRS strongly recommends using the Web site if possible. The automated phone system asks for the same information as the online service. The toll-free number is 800-829-1954.

Keep in mind that the date of your expected refund is subject to change depending on how quickly the IRS and your bank can process it.

Related stories:

Wonkblog: Tax day is even deadlier than you think

On Small Business: Businesses say taxes more administrative headache than financial burden

The Buzz: For tax day, post office extended hours, freebies and deals

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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