While most of us in the Lowcountry are overjoyed to welcome some warm weather back into our lives, spring's arrival also signals something more daunting: filing taxes.
It can be a headache, and many of us would rather pay someone to do it for us so we can go enjoy the sunshine. But that may be a mistake, according to many finance experts.
There are several software options that will walk you through the process of filing taxes yourself, and many of them will make sure you're getting back as much money as possible on your tax returns. But that leads into another dilemma: how to handle the money you're getting back like a responsible adult.
Here's a walk-through on which tax software is the least expensive and easiest to use, with some tips on how to use that return money wisely.
Online tax filing software is the preferred method for paying taxes for the majority of Americans, according to a survey conducted by dealnews.com. That's perhaps because the majority of us have simple incomes to report, which means tax software is entirely equipped to handle the task of filing income with an easy-to-use interface.
Hiring a certified public accountant can cost $100 or more, and if you're filing a form 1040A or 1040EZ, that's probably an unnecessary expense.
The most cost-efficient tax software services are TurboTax, TaxACT and H&R Block, according to PC Magazine, a national technology publication. For simple tax-filers that are not homeowners, TurboTax costs about $30 for state and federal taxes. The deluxe edition handles more deductions, so it costs about $60.
While TurboTax may have the name recognition, TaxACT, priced at $17.95 for the deluxe edition, may be the winner this year. PC Magazine recommends TaxACT for 2014 filings "because it offers the best help system, an effective user interface and navigation tools, and the lowest price among any of its competitors."
A penny saved
According to the survey by dealnews.com, about 51 percent of Americans plan to save the money they're getting back in tax returns. Those who actually end up saving that money are on the right track.
According to David Slade, financial columnist for The Post and Courier, tax refunds shouldn't be treated like an influx of cash. It was your money to begin with, so keep it, he says.
That's by far the best advice out there. But if you're bent on spending some of it, treat it like you would your savings. Use it for paying off debt, or put small portions of it toward something you need.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.