U.S. Income Tax Preparation

Introduction

This guide is designed to provide information and assistance in the income tax preparation process. There are many resources available with extensive information and advice about taxes, both in print and on the Internet. These resources provide a range of information, including tax basics, the latest tax law changes, IRS forms and publications, tips for reducing income tax, and tax planning advice.

Disclaimer: The resources described in this guide are believed to be reliable. However, the Internet Public Library does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided at these sites and cannot answer specific tax questions. Any concerns or questions about your specific tax situation should be discussed with a tax professional.

Internet Resources | Print Sources | Tax Preparation Software


Internet Resources

Tax Information

IRS - The Digital Daily: Income Tax Forms, Instructions, Publications, Regulations, and other stuff http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/
The most accurate and current information about U.S. income tax can be found at the IRS's own web site. According to the IRS, this site is the "fastest, easiest tax publication on the web." It contains statistics, taxpayer information, forms, publications, and more. Everything that a taxpayer needs to know about filing a tax return can be found here. This site also educates taxpayers on a multitude of tax topics.

Many other tax sites exist and explain taxes in detail. They also may provide tax tips not mentioned on the IRS site.

  • Fairmark Press: Tax Guide for Investors http://www.fairmark.com/
    "The Internet's Plain Language Tax Guide" contains "Over 700 Pages of Guidance" to educate taxpayers. Each topic has an introductory section and a multitude of focused detailed sections that provide further information.
  • Microsoft: MoneyCentral - Taxes http://moneycentral.msn.com/tax/home.asp
    The Microsoft Network provides tax information, news, tips, a tax estimator, and tax planning guides.
  • SmartMoney: Tax Guide http://www.smartmoney.com/tax/
    Articles written in plain language explain various tax concepts and how to reduce tax liability.
  • Tax Tips from Bankrate.com http://www.bankrate.com/taxes.aspx
    This site provides articles explaining more advanced tax topics, including many tips for reducing taxes.

Tax Forms

Tax forms can be obtained from the IRS site or from these other sites.

  • Federal and State Tax Forms http://www.lib.lsu.edu/govdocs/taxes.html
  • FedWorld Tax Form Search http://www.fedworld.gov/taxsear.html
  • H&R Block Tax Services - Downloadable Tax Forms http://www.hrblock.com/taxes/tax_tips/irs_forms/index.html?ttiptitle=IRS%20Forms

Tax News

With the frequent changes in tax law, especially during tax season (mid-January until the April 15th deadline), it is often difficult to be well-informed on the latest news. Current tax law changes and commentary can be found at many financial information sites.

Tax Estimators

Resources for estimating tax liability are available online.

Other Related Sites

Subjects related to taxation, including its background, specific areas of tax, and tax law, are also represented on the Internet.

  • Adobe Systems Inc. http://www.adobe.com/
    IRS forms and publications, as well as other files on the Internet, are saved as Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The Acrobat Reader, available to download for free, can be used to view and print PDF files.
  • The Flat Tax Homepage http://www.cse.org/informed/key_template.php?issue_it=17
    The flat tax proposal is an attempt to simplify taxation and is explained in detail here.
  • NetGuide: How to do Your Taxes Online http://www.netguide.com/special/primers/tax/home.html
    This step-by-step guide describes and provides links to many of the tax-related web resources.
  • PayrollTaxes.com http://www.payroll-taxes.com/
    This site is a comprehensive source of information about payroll taxes. It provides the ability to calculate take home pay.
  • Roth IRA http://www.rothira.com/
    Information about all aspects of Roth IRAs can be found at this site.
  • Tax and Accounting Sites Directory http://www.taxsites.com/
    This is a directory containing links to numerous tax and accounting sites, including state-specific taxing authority sites.
  • The Tax History Project http://www.taxhistory.org/
    This site was "established by Tax Analysts in 1995 to provide scholars, policymakers, students, the media, and citizens with information about the history of American taxation."
  • Tax Problems Law http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/taxes/
    The Nolo Press "Self-help law center" provides advice on audits, tax bills, late payments, and dealing with the IRS.

Newsgroups

Usenet newsgroups are online discussion groups that allow users to read and post messages.

  • misc.taxes http://www.deja.com/[ST_rn=if]/group/misc.taxes
    An unmoderated newsgroup for the discussion of tax questions, proposed tax schemes, and other tax issues.
  • misc.taxes.moderated http://www.deja.com/[ST_rn=if]/group/misc.taxes.moderated
    A moderated newsgroup whose charter states that "Misc.taxes.moderated is for the discussion of taxes, including, but not limited to, proposed and existing tax laws, regulations and procedures, among professional tax practitioners and other interested persons, and for answering queries concerning taxes."
  • us.taxes http://www.deja.com/[ST_rn=if]/group/us.taxes
    An unmoderated newsgroup whose charter states that "us.taxes is an unmoderated newsgroup for the discussion of the US tax system, including but not limited to, tax policy as set by the US Congress and the various state legislatures; tax collections by Federal and state agencies; court decisions interpreting US tax laws; the role of tax attorneys and CPAs; and practical advice to consumers on how to comply with the law."

Print Sources

IRS tax publications are the best source of current, accurate information about taxes. Tax forms and publications can frequently be found at public libraries and post offices, in addition to being available online. Although IRS publications are the best and most reliable tax source, they are often difficult to understand. Consequently, numerous books have been written on the topic of income tax, focusing on tax return preparation, tax planning, tax savings, and other aspects of taxation. Many of the popular guides are intended to explain taxes to the average taxpayer in plain language. These guides are appropriate for those with typical tax situations. Those who have complex tax situations will need a more comprehensive guide that covers complex tax topics in detail, and should consult with a tax professional.

Since tax laws change annually, guides are published for a particular tax year. Although the organization techniques, basic tips, and terminology will always apply, changes in tax law make it imperative to have a guide written for the appropriate tax year. When looking at dates related to taxes, remember that taxes due in a particular year actually cover income and deductions for the previous year.

For example, taxes due on April 15, 2000 cover tax year 1999, which runs from January 1, 1999 through December 31, 1999. The year 2000 version of a tax guide, published in late 1999 or in early 2000, covers the 1999 tax year with an April 15, 2000 tax due date.

In the Dewey Decimal System, which is used in most public libraries, books about tax can be found in section 336 ("Public finance") or section 343 ("Military, tax, trade, industrial law"). Most university libraries use Library of Congress Subject Headings. Headings that pertain to U.S. income tax include Income tax—United States, Tax planning—United States, Tax returns—United States.

Some of the more popular books about income tax are listed below.

  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Doing Your Income Taxes is written in plain English, intended for the average taxpayer without a complex tax situation. It provides instructions for all aspects of the tax process from organizing tax materials to filing the completed return. Tax planning suggestions are also given.
  • Ernst and Young Tax Guide is a comprehensive guide to the tax system produced by an accounting firm. It includes tax tips and complete information about how to handle investment income.
  • H&R Block Income Tax Guide is a guide that includes a tax organizer, worksheets, and calendars to assist in the tax return preparation process. It includes a coupon for $10 off tax preparation services at H&R Block.
  • Taxes for Dummies is written in plain English, intended for the average taxpayer without a complex tax situation. It starts with an overview of the U.S. tax system and provides detailed line-by-line instructions for preparing a tax return. Tax planning suggestions are also given.

Tax Preparation Software

Although tax returns can be prepared by hand, many people who prepare their own returns utilize tax preparation software. There are many different programs available; some of the more popular programs are listed below.

  • TurboTax for Mac http://www.shopintuit.com/qstore/ttfamilymac.asp
    This site provides information about TurboTax for Mac, a Macintosh based tax preparation program.
  • Kipplinger TaxCut http://www.taxcut.com/
    In addition to information about the PC based TaxCut software, this site also provides tax tips.
  • Quicken TurboTax http://www.quicken.com/
    In addition to information about the PC based TurboTax software, this site provides information about taxes, investments, insurance, banking, mortgages, and retirement.

This pathfinder created by Amal Beck