Need a hand filling out that 1040 EZ form? No one's snickering. Even the IRS estimates it'll take the average taxpayer about 13 hours to fill it out its simplest form this year.
If you need a helping hand figuring out this year's return, Consumer Reports has got your back with tips on deciding whether or not to go it alone.
What considerations should go into your decision? If you had unusual gains, decreases in income, a boost in assets via inheritance, or some other windfall (are you listening, Joe Millionaire?), you might want to consider getting a pro's input. Those who own a business or are self-employed may also need tax help. And any new life circumstance -- becoming a homeowner, a new parent, or realizing significant gains on stocks or rental income -- may complicate matters.
Our own Tax Center, managed by Tax Superman Roy Lewis (behold the library of tax minutiae!), can help you get to the bottom of most of these issues and reduce your tax bill through retirement investments and college savings plans.
Still, when it comes to calling in reinforcement, it pays to be cautious. Consumer Reports recommends avoiding preparers who promise a large refund before looking at your information, and those who charge a fee based on the size of the return. Be sure to ask how the firm handles sensitive data (you're looking for the word "shred" in the answer). Check out the rest of the magazine's advice on finding good tax help.
For those planning to go it alone, the IRS has a treat for you. It recently unveiled a new, free Internet filing service, "Free File," which enables taxpayers to complete and transmit returns over the Internet without any special software. See if you qualify -- about 60% of individuals do.
Now, go clear out next weekend's calendar so you can plod through that 1040 EZ form.