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It’s getting to that time of year again. It’s the time of year when you drag out that shoe box full of receipts, or start digging through desk and dresser drawers for those bank statements, credit card statements… you know the drill. Some of you take all of those bits of paper and just dump them on some poor number-crunching accountant or tax preparer and let that person prepare your income tax returns.

Now, if you use a digital check register, like Quicken or QuickBooks, and if you have entered your checks with proper tags & notations, you can use that software to print summaries or detailed lists of your income and expenses for the year. I have to admit that I don’t put tags on all of the checks we write during the year, but if it’s a tax deductible item, you bet I do. It saves me lots of time and work at the end of the year. If you pay someone else to prepare your taxes, the more advance prep work you do (summarize those deductible items!) the less your tax prepare will have to charge you.

We’ve only turned our taxes over to a CPA once, and that was because of a complicated pension payout thing that was in a somewhat gray area. Coming from a CPA, it was less likely to trigger an automatic audit. I hate audits and will do everything in my power to avoid them. Other than that one time, I’ve prepared our taxes every year. BC — Before Computers — it was a pain. These days, I use TurboTax.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with TurboTax for a long, long time. Some years, it has been great. A few times it was horrible, especially on Macs. I even tried TaxCut a couple of times. I don’t know what changed at Intuit, but it has been pretty stable the last few years. That doesn’t mean that it is without annoyances, but those annoyances could be due to the fact that they write this software for tax novices and I started my accounting business life back in the mid ‘60s. I’m a shortcut person.

I haven’t had much time to work with this year’s edition of TurboTax yet. I put it through its paces doing my daughter’s very simple return, and it went faster than usual. No Michigan software yet, but it’s due out tomorrow. I opted to buy the downloadable version from Amazon. The amount saved will pay for the state return e-filing. TurboTax Deluxe with State & E-file is $39.99 at Amazon. Locally, I’ve seen it from $50 at Target to $59.99 at OfficeMax, which is the same price you’ll pay getting it directly from Intuit. Included in the price — e-filing of up to 5 Federal returns. State return e-filing will cost you $19.95 each. There is an iPad version ($29.99) in the works, but it’s not out yet. It is due sometime this month. Maybe I”ll try it next year.

There is free online software to prepare your returns, but I’m too paranoid to trust it completely. I like to do things with my own secure computer, on my own secure network. I’m not alone. I’ll give you an update after the state software is released and I have a chance to put it to the test.

Time for The Capitol Steps

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