Friday, March 25, 2011

Free or Cheap Tax Preparation

Yes, in the midst of tax season while working extremely long hours, I am taking a minute to post some suggestions for frugal tax preparation. I am not offering any sort of tax advice, just letting you know some options that are out there for frugal filing. Perhaps having them all in one place to compare will make it easier for you. I have no affiliation with any of theses services mentioned below, and I do not endorse them, nor have I been compensated for mentioning them.

That said, I work for a CPA and two accountants. Honestly? It may be worth it to you to have your return done by a professional. They will usually back you up and stand behind you in case of an audit, and these professionals typcially understand the tax law extremely well. Tax law is very complicated, but I am not saying don't do your own taxes. Just offering the suggestion that sometimes it is cheaper to go to a local accountant than with one of the major tax preparation services across the country. For example, your accountant may not charge per form or have additional state filing fees like some services do. It's something that you need to ask. You also need to consider that if the fee you paid your accountant to do your taxes saved you more than that in reduced tax owed, then it was well worth the money you paid him/her.

Besides your local accountant, if you are looking for some free or other options or want to prepare your taxes yourself, here's some information that will hopefully be helpful to you.

The IRS offers free tax help. If your adjusted gross income is less than $56,000 you can file for free.

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program) offers free tax preparation for low to moderate income families. Typically this applies to those individuals or couples who made less than $49,000. You may have to pay a filing fee, but most locations offer free electronic filing.  To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887 or check this partial VITA site list online. (This list does not include every VITA site.) Juts click on your state and see if you can find a location near you.

Military families and personnel can get free tax preparation assistance:
The military also has a strong Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. The Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The AFTC oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide, and serves as the main conduit for outreach by the IRS to military personnel and their families.

Airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, guardsmen, and their families worldwide receive free tax preparation assistance at offices within their installations. These VITA sites provide free tax advice, tax preparation, and assistance to military members and their families. They are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the new Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) guidelines.

Most service members file their tax returns electronically at their tax centers and, by selecting direct deposit, receive their refunds in as little as one week. This combined effort ensures that service members receive free tax assistance from well-trained and equipped military tax preparers.   (From the IRS website)

Click her for online tax assistance from AARP
"The AARP Tax-Aide Program is a volunteer-run, free tax-preparation and assistance service offered to low- and middle-income taxpayers with special attention to those age 60 and older. Our volunteers are trained and IRS-certified to understand individual federal-tax issues. Our volunteers provide tax assistance as a public service and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided." (from AARP website)
Ask TaxGuru is a free tax resource that offers free tax tips and has multiple articles to guide you through preparation.

For those of you who are looking for free online software:

Click here for Free Tax Software Reviews on TurboTax free online software. Free federal e-filing. To file your state return, you will pay an additional $27.95 per state return. Personally, I have used TurboTax for several years, though I always bought the actual disk and have never tried the free version.

H&R Block has free online software. Keep in mind that you will still have to pay a state filing fee of about $39 (per state return).  Also, I called H&R Block, and they base their in store services on your filing status. They also charge additional fees per form (such as dependents or itemized deductions). If you decide to go with a place like this, ask for hidden fees.

TaxACT Free Tax Preparation is available here.  Free federal e-filing. You will pay an additional charge of $14.95 to file your state tax return.  If you need to file more than one state return, it would be per return. also has free software. Free federal e-filing. State returns are an additional $29.95 per return and are not e-filed. They must be printed and paper filed, which will slow down any return you might be getting. If you have to pay, that might not be such a bad thing, but you would have to make sure that you postmark your return by April 18th. (Yep, this year you have 3 extra days, thanks to a holiday in Washington, DC that falls on April 15th this year. ) also has free software. At this site, you can file multiple state returns for a total fee of $19.95 (not per return, total).  Free federal e-filing.

FreeTaxUSA offers free software and the state return is an additional charge of $9.95. Free federal e-filing. Free federal filing. State returns are $19.95 per return. has free federal filing. State returns are $14.90 per return. There is also a free military edition with free state filing included.

Express1040 offers free federal filing with state returns at $12.95 per return. offers Federal 1040EZ for $14.05, with other filing forms starting at $19.95. This site offers free techinical support, as well as free live chat.

CompleteTax offers free basic federal filing with a state filing fee of $34.95 per return.

MyFreeTaxes offers free federal AND state filing. This site is sponsored by Wal-Mart.

My1040EZ offers free federal filing with the state filing fee of $9.95 per return.

Obviously, this list could go on and on, but hopefully there's a few ideas here that will help benefit you. Again, I will put a disclaimer out there that how you choose to file your taxes is your own decision and I am not offering tax advice regarding your personal return.

GOOD LUCK and when you are relaxing and doing something you love on the 18th of April, please think of me as I slave into the night at my office. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Need Suggestions

All right all you blog stalkers--

I need suggestions. What are you looking for? What brought you to this site -- I mean, you want to save money, yes. But what kinds of posts would benefit you? Which posts have helped you?

I am constantly trying to think of ways to save $$, and I am always interested in ideas that others have to share. If you give me some ideas or areas you'd like suggestions, I am happy to research them and post the results that I find or ideas I can think of. I feel badly that there hasn't been much lately in the way of new posting. I'll try harder. My husband is, once again, unemployed due to lay offs, so I need all the suggestions I can get.  Send me your comments or send a private message. We'd love to hear from you!

Donating Plasma

If you are looking for extra money, you might consider donating your plasma. You'd have to contact your specific local donation center, but many of them pay for plasma donations.  The one near me pays $20 for the first visit of the week, and $25 for the second visit of the same week. You have to pass strict screening regulations and it can take a long time, from what I hear. I have not donated plasma (yet) and I am not sure that I have the time right now. However, I have a few friends who do this regularly. It can take up to 2 hours per visit, depending on your size, so you need to consider that.

You're also providing a great gift for those in need of plasma donations, and that's an even better reason to donate.  Many people are in great medical need of donated plasma. It's a great thing to do for them.

Frequently Asked Questions about Plasma Donation

Who needs plasma?

Find a BioLife donation center

CSL Donation centers

Donation eligibility requirements (may vary from center to center)

Don't forget these are just a few places you could donate. Try going to a search engine and typing "Donating plasma in ________" and put your city in the blank space. I am sure you'll find out more information about where you need to go.

Crustless Quiche Recipe

I am posting this recipe because it's fairly cheap, and you can use up leftovers in it as well. Oh...and my kids love it, so I am hoping yours do as well.

1 cup shredded cheese (optional -- you can omit this and it tastes fine, but it is better with it)
1 tsp. dry onion  (soak it in a little water and it will not be crunchy - or use a little fresh onion)
1 (13 oz) can evaporated milk
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
4 eggs
3/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Optional mix-ins:
crumbled, cooked bacon
cooked ham
cooked chicken or turkey
chopped pieces of steak
green peppers
crumbled, cooked sausage
other vegetables
whatever else you can think of that you'd add to an omelet, basically

Spray a 9" glass pie plate with cooking spray. Beat eggs, milk, and seasonings with a wire whisk or rotary beater until well blended. Add your mix-ins, cheese, and onions and stir well. Place a small glass cup or dish in the center of your pie plate. Pour the egg mixture into the pie plate, around the cup. Microwave on medium power (70%) for 13 minutes. When there's about 3-4 minutes left, pause the microwave and remove the glass dish/cup. Stir the quiche and let it cook the rest of the way. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!!

-- NOTE--
I double this recipe to feed my family of 6. It works great. Just use a deeper pie plate, and cook it for about 18-20 minutes, still on 70% power.

Complete meal serving suggestions:
Fresh fruit or fruit salad
Toast with jam or butter
Fruit smoothies
Sausage links

Feel free to leave any suggestions of what else you think sounds good to add. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making Meals from Items in Your Fridge

Easy meals that are made from basic items that most people would have in their homes or by reinventing leftovers. Just get creative and inventive with the items that you have in your refrigerator or pantry.

Creative Uses for Leftovers

Watch the video for a few simple ways to stretch your leftovers into creative meals the next day.
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