.by Anura Guruge
I have been gainfully using this free, fillable forms from the IRS for at least the last 4 years — maybe slightly longer.
I love them. Exactly want I want and what I need. Electronic versions of the paper forms with some automated calculations and automatic carry over of all important data between related forms.
This is a gem. I was delighted when I found it.
Despite our modest lifestyle our taxes tend to be complicated, since I am still self-employed and tend to be an active investor. So we can’t get away with doing a 1040A or a 1040 EZ. Instead I have to do the whole kit and caboodle with 4 schedules and multiple forms. But, free, fillable forms let me do my taxes with aplomb. Yes, I do know my way around the tax forms and most of the relevant regulations. So, I don’t need a program that tries to guide me. That is why I like this offering so much.
It is not intrusive, it doesn’t try to second guess you, it is totally ‘cloud’-based and it seems very secure.
I would not, even if you paid me, install and run a tax preparation program on my PC. Once you install that software on your PC you never know what can get compromised. With free, fillable forms noting is installed on your PC, no data is saved on your PC. It is totally browser-based. So in terms of privacy, security and safety it is as good as you can ask — since the only data it has is what you type in AND that being data that the IRS requires from you, whether you like it or not.
For nearly 20 years, when my consulting business was active, I used this amazing tax accountant in Dedham, MA. It was a hike to get there but he sure was worth the drive and much more. When I first went to him c. 1989 there were no commercial-strength, PC-based tax preparation software. He did everything by hand, in your presence. He interrogated you … quick fire … and you had to either give him the form he wanted (e.g., W-2, 1099) or have the numbers he wanted. Initially it was intimidating since he also berated you non-stop. That was his style. He was a great guy. We became good friends. After about 4 years I knew what was expected from me. Then I could watch him in action. I would study the return when I got home. Over the next 10 years I set out to learn from him. During the last 5 years, I did my return, by hand before I went to see him. Then I would pay him to do another. Then I compared mine against his. He knew I was doing it and would tease me. Eventually I could do it as well as he — and by now he was using a very fancy, very costly commercial PC program.
So this is why free, fillable forms hits a chord with me. I was used to doing the forms by hand, in pencil with a big eraser and an even bigger calculator. OK. Yes, I use Excel too. Many times I find it easier to use Excel to do calculations than a calculator. Yes, I use Excel with free, fillable forms to do my investment stuff. I don;t type much. I copy-and-paste data from Fidelity to Excel and then from Excel to FFF. Using Excel as the intermediate step allows me to put in intermediary checks to make sure that all the numbers add up.
So, this is just to give a heads up to anybody who was looking for a free option from the IRS.
P.S., It doesn’t do State taxes. But, I live in tax-free NH! All I have to do is to file the Interest & Dividend return and give them a check. NH has an electronic system too. I use that. That is pretty easy. Takes me less than 5 minutes to do that!