DIY Taxes: Tips for Doing Your Own Taxes

The Benefits of Doing your Own Taxes

So, it’s the second week in February – have you done your taxes yet? What, you don’t do your own taxes? You pay someone else to do it for you?

Glutton for Punishment

Well, I’m one of those people who can’t stand paying anyone for something I can do myself. Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe. Cheap? Definitely. And I’m a Jack of all trades and master of none.

Not a Tax Accountant

I’ve dabbled in auto mechanics, small electronics repair, ceramic floor/wall tile, drywall, carpentry, and the list goes on. I’ve even been going by Webmaster as of late. But, getting back to the subject at hand, I’ll put on my Tax Accountant hat for a moment.

DIY Taxes: 3 Great Reasons

I’m writing this to encourage everyone to do your own personal income tax return. Aside from the fact that misery loves company, there are several legitimate reasons I feel you should join me in performing this annual ritual:

  1. It’s fun! (okay, I didn’t think you’d buy that!)
  2. It’s easy! (no?)
  3. It’ll change your life! (?)

According to

Microsoft Money is still going strong as of Aug 2022 With an editor rating of 8.3 and an aggregate user rating of 6.9

In 2008, H&R Block rebranded its TaxCut software as “H&R Block at Home.”

Feeling of Accomplishment

Alright, so the above statements are a little exaggerated – there are elements of truth in each statement. First, while not necessarily fun, doing your own taxes will definitely provide a feeling of accomplishment and perhaps even a boost of confidence.

Overly Intimidating But Not Terribly Difficult

Having tackled this task that is perceived by most to be difficult and daunting at best, you may raise your fist victoriously and cry Ha! in the face of the bureaucrats responsible for the current tax code. After trudging through the overly complex and horrendously long and confusing forms, instructions and IRS supplementary documentation, you will emerge brimming with the confidence that having successfully completed your own return, there is not anything you can’t conquer as well, at least anything that comes on 8-1/2 x 11 forms.

Good Times

And hey, what’s more fun than staying up until all hours of the morning, fueled by chasing caffeine pills with coffee, with Jay Leno pontificating in the background while you stare at the computer screen and fine print until your eyes throb from the strain?

Ease of Doing Taxes with Tax Software

Now about it being easy. Maybe that is oversimplifying the process a bit. Still, with the tax return software available, it’s certainly much easier than paper and pen. This is a must, go get a copy of H&R Block at Home or TurboTax, it doesn’t matter which.

Choice of Software Not Super Important

But, since it doesn’t matter, I’ll tell you that I prefer H&R Block at Home . Not because it’s superior or cheaper than TurboTax (it’s the same price and as for its superiority, I’m making an educated guess as I’ve never used Turbotax, it just happens to be the one I’ve always used. I’ve done my returns with H&R Block at Home since 1996. It hasn’t let me down and I’m familiar with their processes, so I’ve stuck with them.

generic tax banner completing form 1040

Tax Software Can be Low Cost or Free

Another reason might be that they are typically offered each year with Microsoft Money’s latest version free after rebate. As I have always used MS Money, this allows me to stay current by upgrading to the latest version for free after the rebate included with my H&R Block at Home purchase. Similarly, Turbotax is paired with Quicken, so if you prefer Quicken to Microsoft Money, go with Turbotax.

MS, or Microsoft Money, Despite Microsoft no longer developing new versions of Microsoft Money, users can still download and use the software. However, since 2011 software is no longer being updated, it may not be compatible with the latest operating systems or financial institutions.

Tax Software for Today

Users looking for a personal finance management software may want to consider other options. Popular options as of 2023 are: TurboTax, TaxAct, and FreeTaxUSA.

Easy Interview Process to Fill out Taxes

Both titles use a process of questions and answers to guide you through filling out your return. Depending on the answers you give, you will be taken to different sections as required and you’ll skip over the irrelevant stuff. There’s plenty of help along the way.

No Shortage of Useful Advice

If you’re unsure of whether a deduction applies to you or if you should include a certain form in your return, the help files offer great direction and provide several examples where you will find your situation described. If all else fails, there are links to the IRS website where you can access the bulletins that they provide for additional directions to each form in the return.

Built-in Error Checking

H&R Block at Home will check your return for all types of errors, both typographical and comprehensive. For instance, if you mis-enter your SSN or forget to enter a value, it will prompt you to go back and correct this. It will also show you any items that are typical to the IRS.

Relevant Information

For example it might say something like “Your total for charitable deductions is $5,000“  the average donations reported by people in your income range was $3,000. Not necessarily an error, but good to know so that you can make sure you have all the proper documentation to back up something that might raise an eyebrow at the IRS. While you could probably still not refer to doing your returns as easy, these software packages have certainly streamlined the process.

Confidence Boost

Finally, will doing your own taxes really change your life? Honestly, I think in some small but positive ways, yes. The satisfaction of having completed this project on your own is somewhat uplifting and should give you a slight boost in self-esteem.

Go-Getter Attitude

Add “I do my own taxes” to enhance your resume.

This certainly displays your ability to solve complex problems and shows your go-getter attitude. But seriously, preparing your return will definitely force you to pay attention to certain critical aspects of your own personal finance.

Knowledge is Power / Positive impact on personal finance and knowledge of tax code

it’s wise to be familiar with the tax code or at least the portions that pertain to you and effect your return. Arming yourself with this knowledge will allow you to plan and make future decisions with some idea of how your strategy will impact your tax standing. Knowledge is power and all that!

Did you Know?
The Internal Revenue Service has now established a more user friendly site for e-filing of seniors using Form 1040 SR.  In most cases, the service is even provided for free.  See › filing › free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free (2 March 2023).

Parting Thoughts on Avoiding a Negative Refund

One parting thought I cannot imagine going through this task, through all of the pain and suffering, questions and answers, receipt hunting, number crunching, gut wrenching process only to find that your refund calculates in the negative. So, if you are one of those unfortunate, under-withheld individuals who ends up owing Uncle Sam every year, then by all means, hire an accountant!

Brian Neuman

About the Author

Brian Neuman is a Project Manager for a major construction company in the Midwest. His second shift job is being the Webmaster of Honeybeads, Jewelry by Melissa a web site dedicated to promoting his wife’s small business selling custom, handmade beaded jewelry.

Although Legal Help USA has not directly done business with Honeybeadjewelry, this site is still going strong as of March 2023. Contributing to our content as early as 2005 and still conducting business as of 2023 speaks volumes. Please support our partners; take a look at their recent post about the timeless popularity of diamonds link here.

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