Tax man cometh
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on April 6, 2001
Tax time is nigh upon us, and while some of our annoyingly perfect neighbors filed back in January and have already used their refund to book berthing on a luxury cruise to Barbados, the rest of us are still eyeing that April 15 date circled in red on the calendar.
Actually, since the 15th falls on a Sunday this year, we have until the 16th something I only realized when I got my e-file flyer in the mail from the IRS. Yes, the IRS is finally catching up to the age of the Internet. No longer does the government only grudgingly allow you to file electronically, we're actually being encouraged to do so.
This must be the "new" IRS the government's p.r. flacks keep yapping about the main welcome screen to this site looks like it was designed by the Disney crew. Bright, happy colors with friendly icons and lots of smiling citizens. It's almost creepy seeing the tax agency's site trying so hard to be friendly kind of like when you go to rent a car and all the rental agency staff are telling you what their names are and smiling like Prozac addicts.
Beyond the Pleasantville-like ambience of the site, though, the IRS has also gathered nearly every form, document and question you could possibly have about paying your taxes. And fortunately, the inside pages aren't nearly so bubbly plain text is the rule for most of the site.
What actually makes this site user-friendly are the depth of information and the solid organization. It's easy to find what you're looking for here and that's how web sites ought to be judged.
This isn't a particularly noteworthy site; it's included here because of its URL (www.irs.com), which will undoubtedly snare many mis-typing taxpayers whose fingers automatically put in a ".com" after any web address.
IRS.com is a for-profit tax preparation business. I'd never heard of them before, so have no idea of their competence or reputation.
But the government they're not.
From the IRS site at top, you can download printable federal tax forms. From the sites above, you can grab your state tax forms to print out. Beats racing to the post office on your lunch break to try to grab that odd schedule you need if you want to get your childcare tax credit.
The top two best-selling tax preparation packages both have last-minutes options for us late filers. TurboTax has an online version you actually fill out your tax form on their Web site. It's free to try they only ding your credit card when you file or print your return.
Kiplinger's TaxCut can be downloaded from their Web site if you don't have time to wait for the post office or overnight service to deliver the CD-ROMs. Of course, downloading it may take awhile, too.
FileTaxes.com does for small businesses what TurboTax and TaxCut do for individuals: Allow you to fill out and file your tax forms without ever picking up a pencil. FileTaxes.com uses a Web-based interface the forms reside on their server, and you fill them out online via your browser.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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