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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

E-file Your Taxes: It Can Be Done with a Screen Reader

Message: Dear Fred,

I know in the last couple of years, they have come out with e-filing for taxes. Are there really any good benefits to doing it that way? Can someone who is blind or visually impaired complete the tax forms online? If so, please enlighten us!

Filing taxes online has become very popular in the last few years and even the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) has been known to "push" people into filing their taxes this way. Of course, we can all figure out that e-filing is a big money saver for the government, but there really are some benefits for us too!

First of all, I want to make sure everyone understands the terminology I am talking about. The whole thing is called e-filing. It's basically just a way for all the tax payers in the world to file their taxes electronically through the Web. To some, it's a more convenient and faster way to get their taxes done. If you don't agree yet, you may change your mind after hearing about the following benefits. Below are five of the most popular pros for e-filing.

  1. Fewer IRS Errors: You know, when you snail mail in your tax returns, IRS employees have to sit and enter in your amounts by hand. But, if you e-file, you get to do it all yourself and let's be honest, we probably trust ourselves more than any IRS employee. Knowing that your information is entered in as correctly as possible is a great benefit in itself. That way, you can check your work as many times as you deem necessary. No keypunch errors and no IRS notices that your information was entered incorrectly. You can't beat that!
  2. Fewer Taxpayer Errors: When you have to have someone write out all of your information by hand, it's possible that they could make some mistakes. For example, they could misprint your social security number or forget to write in your last name. If anything like that happens on a paper form, you won't hear about it for several months, but with an e-file, the IRS lets you know about any common mistakes right away. The IRS computers will reject a return like that within seconds, so you won't have to sit around wondering if everything was right or not. This, of course, doesn't protect you completely from being audited, but in general, you will have a faster error return.
  3. Get a Faster Refund: It's stated by the IRS that tax payers who e-file get their refunds back within 14 days, which is much quicker than the six weeks you may wait to get your snail mail return back. The 14 days isn't a guarantee, but it is generally a faster method of doing things. So, how long would you like to wait for your check to come in the mail? Two weeks or six weeks? Why have it come in the mail at all, use direct deposit and you'll have an accessible way of knowing when the money has posted.
  4. File Conveniently: One of the biggest benefits of e-filing is that you can do it from the comfort of your own computer chair. You get to use your own computer to file your taxes and you don't have to depend on someone else who's basically doing the same thing you could be doing.
  5. Send Both at Once: In a sense, with e-filing, you can kill two birds with one stone. In most cases, you are able to e-file both your federal and state taxes at the same time. Even though the returns go to different places, the IRS will forward your state information to the appropriate state tax agency. That way, you don't have to worry about doing them separately and wasting more time.

Now, all of these benefits may sound great and even though you might be more than ready to go e-file your taxes right now, it's best to look into it a little more to make sure e-filing is right for your tax purposes.

e-file with TurboTax Online

My wife and I decided we'd give it a try this year and looked into TurboTax Online. We found the site very speech friendly and the really cool thing about it was that we could automatically import our W2 information, no eye-straining to read a printed document and we could save our information as we went.

We found it to be a time-saver, no tax jargon. Just easy-to-answer, plain-English questions that pertained to our unique tax situation. The site automatically fills in the right tax forms. Their tax preparation products also look for deductions and credits to get the biggest return. All we had to do was answer the questions.

If you try it and have questions, TurboTax provides answers to commonly asked tax questions on every screen. Plus, with their Live Community, (included FREE, live answers from tax experts and fellow TurboTax customers are just a click away.

TurboTax displays your refund (or tax owed) on every screen and updates the amount as you answer questions. They check for errors before you submit your forms to the IRS, so you'll know for sure that everything's right. If there are errors, the site asks you simple questions to fix them.

Screen reader users will have no problem with the site. I was really worried about this when I started but had a very easy time and completed my taxes and had my money in a few days.

Click this link to learn more about TurboTax Online: http://turbotax.intuit.com.

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