There are multiple ways to file your federal tax returns, all depending on the amount of time and money you want to put into it. One way is to hire someone else to do it for you. However, be sure to choose this person or company wisely. Regardless of who prepares your taxes, you are responsible for what is on your tax return.
Any person you pay to prepare your taxes is legally required to sign the return and fill out the appropriate information on the form.
The preparer is required to give you a copy of the return. Be sure to review all the information, including all your personal information, to make sure it's correct. Be sure that the spaces for your name, address and social security number are not left blank.
Make sure you have reviewed all the information for accuracy, and never sign the form before you have taken this step. This includes signing the form before it has been filled out. Always be sure to sign in pen. Regardless of whether you have authorized someone to have power of attorney, only you are allowed to sign and cash your refund check. If you would like your tax preparer to be able to talk to the IRS regarding your tax return, you must check the Third Party Authorization box on Form 1040.
According to the IRS, returns that are prepared correctly will have similar return amounts; it is not recommended to choose a preparer because they can promise bigger returns. Taxpayers should also be leery of preparers who charge a fee based on a percentage of a return they get. Conversely, be sure you know exactly who will be preparing your taxes, and that the task hasn't been delegated to someone with less training or knowledge.
You can also prepare and file your taxes yourself. The IRS has begun working with numerous companies to encourage taxpayers and companies to file their returns online, cutting down on paperwork and decreasing wait time for processing and refunds. Electronic filing is available for free for individual taxpayers with incomes below $56,000 a year using the Free File program.