Photo (cc) by jeremysalmon
The National Society of Accountants says the average cost last year for an accountant to prepare a 1040 tax form, along with a state tax return, was $273. But depending on the complexity of your return, you can easily do your taxes for free.
After you learn how, read on to see how to get free credit scores, free cash back when you shop and free expert financial advice every day.
Part 1: How to do your taxes free
If your tax return is simple, like a 1040EZ or 1040A, you should never pay to have your taxes done. Several providers offer free tax software for simple returns, and using it is so easy, you can do your own taxes in minutes with no help from a pro.
What if your taxes aren’t simple enough for free software?
TaxAct is still the answer. Their paid products, used for more complicated returns, are way cheaper than the competition’s. The current TaxAct deluxe version is $14.99, and the most you can spend for their premium version this year is $19.99. In both cases state returns are $14.99 extra.
Compare that with the most heavily advertised tax prep software — you probably know the one I mean. They charge four times as much for their premium version — $79.99 — plus a whopping $36.99 for state returns. Paying that much is crazy! Having used them both, I can tell you TaxAct works just as well at a fraction of the cost.
Tax Act is simple, accurate, and cheaper than anyone else. They guarantee you’ll get your maximum federal refund, lock in your pricing so the price they quote when you start your taxes is the price you’ll pay when you finish them, and if there’s ever a problem with their calculations, they’ll pay any IRS fees or penalties for you.
Tax Act isn’t the only game in town. Depending on your income, there are other ways to get your taxes done free. Check out “5 Ways to Get Free Help With Tax Prep.”
Part 2: How to get a free credit score
Tax time is the perfect time to get your financial house in order. And part of the process should be checking to make sure your credit history and credit scores are where they should be.
Getting a free copy of your credit history is easy enough. The law allows you to get one free copy annually from each of the big three credit reporting agencies by going to AnnualCreditReport.com.
Credit scores, on the other hand, aren’t automatically offered free. Many banks are now offering their customers a free monthly look at the most commonly used credit score, the FICO score. But if that’s not an option for you, the alternative is paying FICO $19.95. Not cool.
Fortunately, there are other sources for a free credit score. My favorite for this: Credit Sesame.
Credit Sesame allows you to get a free, instant credit score. You don’t even have to provide a credit card number. It’s not a FICO score, but it’s plenty good enough to give you a quick idea of how your credit’s doing.
Credit Sesame also offers tools to help improve your credit, as well as periodic offers from financial products that may benefit you — from credit cards to mortgages. I’ve been a member for years; if you’re not, click the link above and check it out.
Need advice to improve your credit score? Check out “7 Fast Ways to Raise Your Credit Score.”
Part 3: How to get money back whenever you buy online
If someone offered you money every time you shop online, would you say “no”? That’s what you’re effectively doing every time you buy something online without going through a cash-back site.
Like almost every other online shopping center, cash-back sites get a commission from stores when you make a purchase. Instead of keeping that money — like almost all other sites do — they share it with you. The amount you get back ranges from 1 to 12 percent — and sometimes more during promotions.
My personal favorite of these sites: Ebates. I like Ebates because it’s user-friendly, pays you $5 for every friend you refer, and offers periodic double cash back promotions. They partner with more than 1,800 merchants and pay rebates quarterly, providing you’ve earned at least $5. They’ll send the money via check, PayPal or even to a third party, such as a charity or family member. I’ve been using the site for more than a year, and I’m loving it!
The signup process is quick, easy and you don’t have to provide bank or credit card info.
Part 4: How to get free, valuable advice all year long
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