We’re heading into tax season again, and people have started to ask, “How do I file my taxes?” This can become quite complicated if you’re investing in different types of securities or have accounts with multiple brokerages.
One way to solve this issue is to hire a CPA, but that can turn into a difficult process of trying to find the best deal and a trusted advisor.
In order to avoid that hassle, many people have turned to do-it-yourself software such as TurboTax and H&R Block at Home. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular services used to ease your tax pain.
One of the most annoying parts of the tax process is getting all your documents organized. If you haven’t already, this is the year to migrate your key info out of the hanging folders and onto your hard drive. Kristen Guttas of LaunchSquad is a fan of Evernote:
“Evernote manages personal finance docs like a dream, leading to an organized, paperless tax process. For tax preparation, Evernote is great for scanning and saving documents (like receipts and financial statements), or saving logins for tax services… In addition, you can share household tax information with your spouse or partner. Say you want to scan a W-2 into Evernote from the office and your husband wants to email a couple of investment statements in from his laptop – Evernote’s shared notebooks can handle this activity and keep it organized. Lastly, it can help you find last year’s information quickly and easily. Their incredible text-recognition technology, makes the text in the documents searchable – even hand-written text (great for invoices).”
Sure, it’s not a personal assistant, but could you ask much more of a free service?
Evernote has no fees, can be used from your tablet or iPhone, and is constantly adding new services. The only downside is that there is a monthly upload limit (unless you upgrade to Premium for $45 per year). So if you’re looking to keep track of several accounts for trading futures, binary options, and forex, then you should probably pay for the premium service.
Tracking Your Trading Activity
If you lose a record, it could mean hundreds of dollars out of your pocket. Make sure to find a reliable method of tracking your accounts that you will actually use. Remember, you can have the most amazing service on earth, but it means nothing unless you use the features regularly.
Mint.com is a rapidly growing service that can be used to track every account and credit card that you have.
Want to see what you’re paying in brokerage commissions? It can help you monitor all of those fine-print fees. Want to compare your portfolio to market benchmarks? No problem. In addition, it’s designed to make tax-time easier.
Ms. Guttas comments that “Mint’s integration with TurboTax makes filing itself a breeze. Best of all, Mint offers smart financial advice such as high-yield savings accounts or CDs where that big refund can earn you even more money.”
Finding a Reliable Tax Service
Tax laws are complicated and tend to change regularly, so investors have to be quite wary of the rules. Are you selling a security that you’ve held less than 12 months? Has a stock paid out dividends? Have any of your mutual funds made a capital gains distribution? Depending on the circumstances, each of these returns could be taxed at a different rate.
When it comes to DIY tax-services, TurboTax is the frontrunner. For investors, the service you’re most likely to need is Premium. This currently costs $86.98 (to file at the federal and state levels), but allows you to directly import investment info from your financial institution.
Michael Morgan of Slide Ridge has used TurboTax for the past five years and still loves it.
“TurboTax makes it easy to account for all my expenses, business and personal, and was even able to walk me through the home office deduction. The process sometimes seems a bit tedious, and a full return takes about 3 hours or so, but the thoroughness has certainly increased my refunds over what I would have been able to do alone. And the cost is significantly less than hiring a CPA or tax firm to do it (I know, I did that previously). I have not had any problems or issues with my returns, and they are always filed quickly and easily, with the refunds coming sometimes within a week of filing.”
Each of these services can help you to organize your investments and get the best deduction possible. But the most important part of managing tax-season is getting started early.
Tax picture from Shutterstock.