IRS Taxes - Different Options for Filing, from Paper to CPAs and in between

Please note: this is an evolving blog post.

I'm hoping to do continued research on this topic! (Perhaps with your help.) What you see below is what I know currently,  I'll continue to revise and refine this post over time. If you have any information, feedback, input, or questions, please get in touch!  Email me at:  jennygirlfriday@gmail.com.

There are several great options for filing your IRS Taxes.  This year, they are due on Tuesday, April 17th.

When you're self-employed, there are just two additional forms that get added to your normal taxes.  The Schedule C and the Schedule SE. They're not too complicated. (Schedule SE looks a bit crazy, but really, there's only a few lines that you need to do!)

If you're filing with software, online, or with an accountant, usually, they will ask you a lot of questions, and then put your info into the forms. (Coming soon....Click here to read more about the forms, and what information you'll need for each.)

Filing Options

Here's a list, from the most basic to the most formal. More details about each below.

♥ Paper Tax Forms
♥ Free Online Portals
♥ Online Portals / Software (For Purchase)
♥ Tax Preparers / Bookkeepers
♥ Accountants / CPAs


♥Paper Tax Forms

Prefer the Old Skool Way? Paper tax forms still work just great. Fill out your 1040 as you normally do, then add the Schedule C and Schedule SE. You can download these directly from the IRS.gov site, or find at many libraries. 

Variations

• Do on your own, using the instructions
• Get a friend for moral support and a 2nd set of eyes
• Use the Walkthroughs on the Business Apothecary, by Yours Truly (coming soon)
• Get free assistance at a Library, sponsored by the AARP
• Sign up for a Tax Pop-up Shop

Pros: You can see all your numbers. It's easy to double-check the information. It feels very satisfying and transparent.
Caution: Paper forms don't prompt you...so you might miss out on certain deductions, or credits.  Such as the state sales tax deduction. (I have to look into that one still!)


♥Free Online Portals

I believe there are a handful of free portals to use. Usually, these work for basic tax situations only. Some can handle self-employment taxes. 

One option is the IRS Free File.
Another is H&R Block, at hrblock.com
(Know any more good ones?  Please send my way!)

Variations

• Do on your own, using the instructions
• Get a friend for moral support, and a 2nd set of eyes
• Use the Walkthroughs on the Business Apothecary, by Yours Truly (coming soon) to help you prepare your numbers ahead of time.
• Sign up for a Tax Pop-up Shop to get assistance with the self-employment section

Pros: It's free! It'll know about current tax credits, deductions, etc. It will prompt you for all the information.
Caution: It can be hard to get support when you run into trouble. The graphics aren't as easy or pleasing to the eye. Sometimes, there are limits...such as you have to earn under a certain amount.


♥(For Purchase) Online Portals / Software ... like TurboTax

Have you already been doing your taxes online with TurboTax or something similar?  Then adding your self-employment taxes is pretty easy! The portal will guide you through a series of questions about your business, then it will do some of the math for you, and put all of your information into the proper tax forms (that get submitted electronically).

The golden standard is: TurboTax. A major benefit is....they are the same company that created QuickBooks. So, if you've been using those, it can be really quick to upload all your data right into TurboTax!

(Know any more good ones?  Please send my way!)

Variations

• Do on your own, using the instructions
• Get a friend for moral support, and a 2nd set of eyes
• Use the Walkthroughs on the Business Apothecary, by Yours Truly (coming soon) to help you prepare your numbers ahead of time
• Sign up for a Tax Pop-up Shop to get assistance with the self-employment section

Pros: It'll know about current tax credits, deductions, etc. It will prompt you for all the information. It's easy to use. Excellent help available.
Caution: Sometimes one can get lost in the process. The portals guide you through, but it's sometimes hard to go back to change things. There are often a lot of up-sells, and it's hard to know when you really need them or not.


♥Tax Preparer / Bookkeeper

Do you feel better working with someone? Is your situation fairly straightforward? Working with a tax preparer or bookkeeper can be a great option! These are folks who are trained in, and very experienced with, doing basic taxes. They are different than CPAs (Certified Public Accountants), and usually cost less. Want to know more about the difference?  Click here to read more on clearskybookkeeping.com.

Options:

H&R Block offers in-office assistance with using their portal, for a fee

(Know any more good ones?  Please send my way!)

Variations

• Go into an office
• Hire a consultant to come to your office
• Sign up for a Tax Pop-up Shop for preparation of very basic taxes, including self-employment

Pros: Working with a real person to lead you through the process. Get answers to questions. Preparers will prompt you for all the information. They know all the things to check for at the end. Gives you a natural deadline for your preparation part.
Caution: Different personalities (sometimes folks are not friendly), tax preparers/bookkeepers may or may not know some of the very detailed laws that apply to your situation. 


♥Accountants / CPAs (Certified Public Accountant)

This is the Cadillac approach! Accountants have a degree in their field, extensive training and experience with taxes, as well as a broader view of money in our lives, financial reports, investments, retirement, etc. They're who you need if you want to do any number modeling, get advice with decisions, do long-term planning, and more. 

Some accountants are also CPAs. CPAs have to answer some additional and very high standards! They must have a professional license, follow a code of conduct, and get continuing education. CPAs are a great choice if you: have a complex situation (own properties, stocks, divorce, etc.), if it feels reassuring for you to the highest level of training for doing taxes, plan to grow into an S-Corp or change to a non-profit.  

They will usually provide you with a questionnaire each year during tax season and a due date.

Options:

Many CPAs are moving to a subscription model, where you pay a monthly fee each month...and you get your annual taxes prepared + support year round. Some provide a quarterly check-in/tune-up plus annual filing. Personally, I think this is a great move!

Two CPAs with subscription models (that I've just learned about!) are:
• Timber Tax, with Luke Frye and Anne Chan at timbertax.co
• Hipster Money, with Alexandra Perwin at hipstermoney.com. (Website is still being developed.)
• Penny Smart Girl, with Meka West at pennysmartgirl.com

Some Accountants/CPAs are willing to do your once-a-year annual filing, and charge one fee for that job.

• Ballard Bean Counters, with Rose Westwood at ballardbeancounters.com

(Know any more good ones?  Please send my way!)

Variations

• Go into an office
• Work over the phone and online
• Hire a CPA who also handles your bookkeeping

Pros: Working with a real person to lead you through the process. Get answers to questions. They can give advice. They can often save you money by knowing all of the credits and special rules! Gives you a natural deadline for your preparation part. You can reach out for help via email or the phone.
Caution: Different personalities (sometimes folks are not friendly). It still takes work on your part to prepare for the Accountant. Sometimes the portals that accountants use can be confusing.


Heads Up ~

However you choose to file your taxes—and with whom—it'll still be up to you to have the numbers and evidence for them. That's where I've got you covered! (Coming soon - Click here for a workbook.)

A couple parting thoughts ~

*****You have the right to be treated well by whoever is helping you with filing your taxes!***** If you ever come across someone who's being severe, unfriendly, or acting like you should know this stuff........then I invite you to move on! Find someone else. You're hiring them to help you! Your job isn't to know this stuff! Your job is to do your work, then find the paperwork + numbers that they ask you to get.

+

It actually is rewarding to do taxes. :)  It sounds complicated. It interrupts your schedule. It can be confusing. Also, it is evidence of all the beautiful work that you did last year! Think about all the clients and buyers who benefited from your work! Look at all you accomplished! Every number represents income or expenses that you purchased to do your work. That's pretty cool.

Here's to a rewarding tax prep time!


Jenny Girl Friday

P.S. Know any other self-employed Seattleites who could use this information? Please forward freely!
P.S.2 Are you already signed up for Sidekick Services? If not, click here and join the list to receive tax + license reminders, how-tos, inspiration and more delivered to your inbox.