With dozens of tax guides available, which one's for you? Here's a capsule look at 14 popular tax-guide and income-tax planning materials:
* The Arthur Young Tax Guide 1985 by Arthur Young & Co. (Ballantine, $6.95). Snappy design and a new idea. Only guide to include and annotate the IRS' guide, "Your Federal Income Tax." Line-by-line and form-by-form advice, plus financial planner guidance that includes tax consequences. Easy to follow and thorough. Features 300 Tax Savers and Tax Planners.
* 1985 Complete Book of Income Tax Deductions by H&R Block (Macmillan, $5.95). Workbook sidekick provides details the guide leaves out. Sections on personal, business and other expenses. Complements Block's 1985 Personal Tax Record Book ($5.95), which helps organize record-keeping.
* Cut Your Own Taxes and Save by Robert Metz and Sidney Kess (World Almanac Publications, $2.95). In its 20th year. "The People's Tax Book." Over-simplified and thin at 96 pages. Perky margin designations.
* Everyone's 1985 Income Tax Guide by S. Jay Lasser, CPA (Hilltop Publications, $5.95). In its 29th year. A concise, modified line-by-line approach. Lacks clarity because of cramped format. Complemented by The Financial Security Guide ($3.95), with advice on IRAs, Keoghs and other investments.
* 1985 H&R Block Income Tax Workbook (Macmillan, $6.95). The purest of the line-by-line guides. Ranked above-average for ease of use and average for clarity and user accuracy in recent Consumer Reports ratings of six guides. Proven tool for less complicated returns.
* J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax (Simon and Schuster, $6.95). The oldest, least changed, but still among the most popular. Ranked second in the Consumer Reports test. Impressive for ease of use, completeness and clarity. Not a line-by-line guide. Complete picture of tax return considerations, plus advice on unusual situations. Elaborate indexes and checklists.
* Pay Less Tax Legally by Barry Steiner, CPA (Signet, $5.95). Outranked five major competitors for ease of use in Consumer Reports. Good marks for clarity and completeness. Useful features such as "The One-Minute Taxman" and "The 100 Most Commonly Asked Income Tax Questions."
* Perfectly Legal by Barry Steiner and David Kennedy (John Wiley & Sons, $14.95). A hardback with question-and-answer format -- the Heloise of tax guides. Divided into 27 chapters, including "Tax Planning and Strategies." Not a line-by-line guide. The appendix excerpts the Audit Techniques Handbook for IRS Agents -- a less-than-auspicious ending to a book promising "400 Foolproof Methods for Paying Less Taxes."
* Strassels' Tax Savers by Paul N. Strassels and William B. Mead (Times Books, $15.95). Subtitled "How to Hold On to More of What You Earn by Paying Less in Taxes for the Rest of Your Life." A hardback for middle-class taxpayers. Not for frantic, last-minute advice seekers. Useful tax-saving lessons from April 16 onward.
* Sylvia Porter's 1985 Income Tax Book (Avon Books, $5.95). Ranked fifth of six by Consumer Reports. Rated above-average for ease of use, below-average for user accuracy. Line-by-line guidance. Boxed Tax Tips and question-and-answer segments. Abbreviated and simplified. Not for complex tax returns.
* Taxable You: Every Woman's Guide to Taxes by Mary L. Sprouse (Penguin Books, $8.95). Not a line-by-line guide. Packed with advice for women. Designed as a read-through book, not for last-minute filing.
* Tax Hotline. (Boardroom Reports, $39/year). Monthly newsletter from New York's Fifth Avenue. Invaluable for tax fanatics and anyone who wants to keep abreast of the latest twists in tax laws. Spicy, fun and informative. Insider guidance on loopholes, tax court decisions and planning. Guaranteed to save you money -- or your money back.
* Tax Pak. (The Clearinghouse, $9.95). Classiest of tax organizers. From a Cleveland, Ohio, firm. Attractive leatherette portfolios with color-coded files to organize -- and interpret -- data.
* Your Federal Income Tax by the IRS (U.S. Government Printing Office, free). Also called Publication 17. A step-by-step guide. No advice or tips for beating the system. Comprehensive, but not for the easily intimidated.