April 17, 2012—that’s the last day to file individual federal income taxes for 2011. (The traditional tax return filing deadline is April 15 but this falls on a Sunday in 2012 and April 16, 2012 is Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia, so the last filing date is April 17 in 2012). With so many people either writing checks to the IRS or expecting a check from the IRS, the month of April leaves many people thinking income taxes. This month’s blog provides quick links to:
- History of the Income Tax
- Government Services and Income Tax Forms
- Evaluations of Tax Preparation Services
- Free Non-Governmental Services and Advice
- More Resources on the ipl2
History of the Income Tax
During the first century of American history, income taxes were considered only during times of war (when expenses for military expenditures went up and income from international tariffs went down). The first peacetime income tax was imposed by congress in 1894, but the modern income tax was created by the 16th Amendment to the constitution in 1913. One major force behind the creation of the income tax during this progressive era was the prohibition movement. Income rates have varied widely over the last 100 years.
Our Documents.gov (find it on the ipl2)
This site, maintained by the federal government, provides the text of the 16th Amendment and a brief overview of the income taxes that preceded the 16th Amendment.
The Tax Foundation (find it on the ipl2)
This site provides a discussion of the association between the Prohibition and Temperance movements and the 16th Amendment, which established the income tax.
Tax Policy Center (find it on the ipl2)
Sponsored by the Urban Institute & Brookings Institution, this site provides tables of the top income brackets from 1913 to the present. The top rates range from 7% (1913) to 94% (1944-45). The present top rate is 35%.
Government Services and Income Tax Forms
Most standard tax forms are available free of charge at your post office and all forms are available free of charge on-line. The Internal Revenue Service also provides free advice for taxpayers on many issues. The IRS website is the usually best “first stop” for any tax related question.
IRS Tax Forms (find it on the ipl2)
Taxpayers can find a complete list of government pamphlets and tax forms (with full instructions) on this page.
Interactive Tax Assistant (find it on the ipl2)
The IRS provides a free interactive online tax assistant. This service provides answers to the most commonly asked questions (e.g., “Do I need to file income taxes?” “Who can I claim as a dependent?” and “Am I eligible for a Child Tax Credit?”). This site answers all of the most commonly asked questions in plain English, which is accessible to people with average reading and math skills (the site is also linked to a Spanish language version of the site).
Evaluations of Tax Preparation Services
Many different tax preparation services and software options are available across a wide range of prices. It can be difficult to decide which option is right for a given tax situation. The sites listed below include reviews that attempt to evaluate tax preparation services and provide a breakdown of the functionality for each service.
Top Ten Reviews (find it on the ipl2)
A side-by-side comparison of 10 tax preparation software programs and electronic filing (e-filing) services. Factors include price, basic features, e-filing options, tax assistance support, and technical requirements. Also includes details about ratings for each program. From a publisher of product reviews for software and Web services.
NEW! NextAdvisor Online Tax Preparation Reviews
NextAdvisor is an independent source for “comparing the most valuable new Internet services.” Their Online Tax Preparation Review chart provides a current comparison of the best tax services along with an FAQ section that answers basic filing questions.
NEW! About.com Top 7 Tax Software
Tax professional William Perez tests seven different tax software programs by putting them each through three tax scenarios and offering a detailed review for each service.
NEW! CNET Tax Preparation Reviews
This CNET page on tax preparation software allows users to select criteria that are important to them such as price, manufacturer, computer platform, and licensing agreements. The search results can be sorted according to any of these criteria. A quick snapshot of each service is provided and the user can set up a price alert.
NEW! PCMag Accounting and Tax Reviews
PCMag’s Accounting and Tax page provides editor ratings and detailed reviews for tax preparation software packages. Users can filter by price, company, and rating and can also submit their own reviews of each service.
Free Non-Governmental Services & Advice
Preparing your taxes on your own can be difficult. Fortunately, there are lots of free tools and services available on the web. Whether you’re looking for forms, have questions about exemptions or are looking to file online for free, the following sites can help.
Tax Resources on the Web (find it on the ipl2)
This comprehensive list of online resources acts as a “gateway to tax resources available on the World Wide Web.” It includes information on federal taxes, California taxes, retirement resources and news about taxes.
NEW! Web Tax Center
This tax resource offers free tax tips, tax FAQs, and links to all current tax forms (federal and state). It also provides links to a free e-file service offered through FreeTaxUSA.
NEW! AARP Tax-Aide
AARP provides free tax help for those 60 and older. This website includes FAQs and a locator to help you find an AARP tax-aide site in your area.
NEW! Tax Act
Prepare, print and e-file federal tax returns for free through Tax Act. This resource includes links to popular help topics. A tools & reference section includes a tax dictionary, tax rate calculator and iPhone tax applications.
NEW! H&R Block
Prepare, print and e-file federal tax returns for free through H&R Block. Their website includes tax calculators, tax tips and applications for mobile devices. A tax answers section provides easily searchable answers to many common tax questions.
Prepare, print and e-file federal tax returns for free through TurboTax. This website includes handy tax calculators, tax tips, and tax FAQs.
More Resources on ipl2
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