Make a robot do it (err use tax preparation software)

Using tax preparation software is very popular, and a good option for people with pretty straightforward tax situations. If you have a full- or part-time job with a W-2, you didn’t win the lottery, you don’t own four mansions, and you have no offshore bank accounts in the Bahamas, tax preparation software might be just the thing for you.

Tax preparation software guides you through the process of filling out your tax return by asking lots of questions, like “Did you buy a house this year?” The software will have you to transfer information from your W-2 into the software to determine your income. (It can also provide guidance on whether it makes the most sense for you to take the standard deduction or to itemize your deductions.) When you’re all done, many of these programs allow you to file your tax returns electronically.

Some options to consider include:

  • Turbo Tax—Free option available, paid options range from: $34.99-$114.9917
  • H&R Block—Free option available, paid options range from $34.99-$54.9918
  • TaxAct—Free option available, paid options range from $15-$3019
  • Tax Slayer—Free option available, paid options range from $17-$3520
  • eSmart Tax—Free option available, paid options range from $14.95-$34.9521

Tax preparation software has its upsides and downsides. On the upside, it’s often quick and easy to use, provides lots of help and guidance, and allows you to file electronically. The downsides: It’ll take a little bit of your time and you may have to pay for the software. It’s also important to remember that your tax returns contain very sensitive personal information, such as your social security number. Hacking and security breaches are always a possibility. (You might remember, for instance, that TurboTax had a big security breach in 2015.)22

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