The Best Services to Help You Prepare Your Taxes

If you live in a household that has an income, you are required to prepare your taxes and file your taxes every year. If not done so already, it is essential to have a plan to put your tax return together. Many choose to do their taxes using tax preparation software or they do it manually. The benefit of tax preparation services is that you save time, stress. In addition, it will help you to avoid mistakes that put you at risk of having your return gets rejected. Tax preparation services are usually more expensive than doing it through online software or manually. If you have very complex taxes, going to an expert could be a good decision if it is within budget. Here are some of the best tax services:

1. H&R Block

They have a large network of branches that offer several tax preparation options with reasonable pricing. Some specific benefits are their drop-off, in-person, or virtual tax preparation services offered. There are 11,000 locations around the country and pricing that start at $128 for a basic federal return and one state return. Some cons are that there are additional costs perform that can lead to higher prices for people with complex taxes and not all of their preparers are CPAs. H&R Block is well known in the tax preparation industry due to its size and reliability. You have the option to do your taxes yourself with their software. They also offer three full-service tax preparation plans. For the 2019 tax year, they helped to prepare 23 million tax returns. You also have the option to have your taxes done through their new online service. 

For taxes prepared at a physical location, you have two choices. The first option is an in-person tax prep service where you sit in the office or in your home at a computer with a tax pro while your return is completed. The second option is that you can leave your tax papers at a drop-off service and everything is calculated for you. You then just have to come back to sign the final paperwork. Both options start at a price of $69 for basic returns with an additional $59 per state. Another option starting this season is that you have the choice to upload all of your forms for a virtual tax preparation service. You get the full service of a representative without having to go to a physical location. 

2. TurboTax Live

TurboTax Live is an add-on to TurboTax that provides software with a tax professional in order to complete your tax return for you. A pro is having the option to begin your taxes on your own and then upgrade to a professional preparer. There are four pricing tiers that correlate to how complex your return is, and you can have your taxes prepared by a professional without leaving your house. Some cons are that there is no option for in-person support, not all professional preparers are CPAs, and self-employed taxes with one or more states can be expensive. 

TurboTax is one of the best known, and largest online tax preparation software that ranks highly for their do-it-yourself software. However, it also has a service where tax professionals can do everything for you online. Even if you have already begun your return, you can still get help. For the full-service option, pricing can be between $130 for basic returns to $290 for complex returns. There is also an additional fee for state taxes and multiple forms. To upgrade from the software, pricing can be between $100 and $260. This is on top of software costs that can be between $0 and $120. Since their service is completely online, they are best for tax filers who are more comfortable with using a computer. There is also no drop-off option. However, if you are relatively comfortable with technology, TurboTax is a great and easy-to-navigate option that is price-competitive with other services. 

3. Jackson Hewitt

This service offers three ways to do your taxes with a professional through one of their locations or online. Many of their offices are even located in Walmart stores. Some pros include the 6,000 office locations, 3,000 of them inside Walmart stores. In addition, you can upload or drop off forms to have your taxes. Lastly, appointments and walk-ins are supported. Some cons are that pricing is not always clear and transparent on the website and they have a minimum tax preparation fee of $150 for federal returns. 

They make tax preparation easy. However, as you can have your taxes done while you shop for groceries. Many locations also offer evening and weekend hours so you can get your taxes done in accordance with your busy schedule. You start by uploading your tax forms through their website. However, if this proves to be an issue for you, you can go to a physical location to drop off your documents and return later for a full review session. In-person meetings can be done by appointments or walk-ins and prices vary depending on how many forms need to be completed in order to file your return. Thus, Jackson Hewitt is a great option for people who want an easy tax experience. 

4. KPMG Spark

They are the best service for modern small and mid-size companies who want online tax support from a group of business experts. Some pros include the fact that you can work with a team of tax professionals at a Big Four accounting firm, you can get advanced tax planning support from the team, and you have expertise in complex business tax needs at your fingertips. Some cons are that their pricing could be high for some small businesses as they are more expensive than a basic business tax preparation service. 

KPMG handles taxes and audits for Fortune 500 companies, which makes them reliable as a service to help smaller companies. They also offer full-service online bookkeeping and tax account services. Business owners can choose to participate in these services in order to streamline tax prep. Another option is for them to choose services a la carte. Owners will have to contact KPMG in order to get a quote on how much the return could be based on its complexity and the number of forms that need to be filled out.

Businesses can also contact their assigned team through phone, text, or email. If you log in to their web portal, you can get tax information 24/7.  Pricing is done at a monthly rate with a flare rate starting at $195 per month. There are no added hourly fees or consultation charges, however. Your team also pulls in business transaction data directly from your bank to its software. This service could be more than what your business needs, but their expertise makes them a great option for small and mid-size businesses that are growing.



How to Make Your Retirement Savings Last Longer

You finally made it to retirement! After that feeling of relief washes over you, you might start to worry about running out of money. That feeling is totally natural as the future is unpredictable. We don’t know how long we are going to live, what returns we can expect on our retirement savings, different emergencies or unplanned costs that may arise, or world events that could change the course of our lives. Even if you hire a financial advisor and majorly plan, the risk will still be there. There are ways, however, to increase your income and decrease the risk that you will run out of money. This way, you can more freely enjoy your retirement mostly free of stress. 

1. Maximize your Social Security Benefits

Starting to reap the benefits of your Social Security as soon as you turn 62 is very attractive to many people. However, if you start your Social Security too early, it’ll reduce the benefits you get from it when you need it more in the future. Putting Social Security off for a few years can also mean that changes in your cost of living down the line won’t be as drastic. You should think of Social Security benefits as a longevity insurance as you don’t know when you will pass. 

2. Minimize your fixed expenses

If you want your money to last longer, you need to do what you can to decrease your essential expenses such as food, shelter, transportation, insurance, and/or debt payments you still need to make. One way to cut unnecessary expenses is to choose the type of housing that will serve your needs and your financial needs. This can mean just staying in your house. However, it can also mean moving to a house where the taxes aren’t as high, an apartment, or even moving in with your children. This can help to save on utilities and give you more flexibility when it comes to possible medical expenses, home repairs, or a recession in the future. 

3. Have a spending plan

In other words, you should have a budget in retirement. You should set aside a certain amount of money every month for food, taxes, insurance, and fun things like travel or shopping. Doing this can help you better see what you can and cannot afford while in retirement. Not having any plan and just spending freely greatly increases the risk of losing all of your money before you die. It is a common rule that 4% is the minimum target for a withdrawal rate in retirement. For example, if you saved one million dollars, you could withdraw about $40,000 per year, not including Social Security. 

4. Consider some guaranteed income

Today, you can’t just rely on pensions and Social Security to retire. You should also have separate retirement savings set aside to cover necessities like food and housing. Out of these savings, you should have some type of guaranteed annuity income. However, do your research before buying one with high fees. The income should only be a small percentage of your net worth in order to give you a cushion to fall back on. 

5. Don’t forget about inflation

The sad reality of things is that your money is going to be worthless in the future. In other words, things get more expensive as you get older. This in turn will put stress on your spending and your retirement savings. If you plan for this, however, you can make sure that inflation doesn’t deplete your retirement savings. 

6. Remember tax planning

Taxes and tax planning do not end when you stop working. Sadly, tax planning gets even more important and complicated (who knew that was even possible) as you age. If you withdraw that 4% from a 401(k), IRA or brokerage account, it is worth less after taxes and even less than if you withdrew a similar amount from a tax-free ROTH IRA. If you get some advice from a financial planner, they can help you plan on which accounts to pull money from first and make sure that you are getting the most out of what you saved. 

7. Work a few more years

Most people aren’t retiring by forty, fifty, or even sixty like they used to. Times have changed. As long as you're still passionate and healthy enough to do so, working an extra year and waiting to retire can increase your standard of living in retirement. Your Social Security will be around 8% greater every month by just waiting one more year to retire. In addition, your retirement savings and accounts can grow for another year. It might be best to slowly transition into retirement, working part-time for a little while. 

8. Plan for long term care

It is highly likely that your or your partner will need long term care in retirement. One of you is going to go first, and this not only puts emotional stress on your partner, but huge financial stress as well. Your partner could be left living off of some guaranteed income and Social Security--hardly enough to live a decent life. Long term care is very expensive. Nursing homes are very expensive. Long Term Care Insurance (LTC) can help to pay for about half of the long term care expenses. 

9. Maximize credit card points and miles

By saving up your credit card points and miles, you can help to ensure that you get to travel in retirement without breaking the bank. Things like food and hotels and transportation add up fast. 

10. Invest smartly

If you just leave your money in the bank, you lose money everyday because of inflation. If you don’t invest because you are scared to, you are more likely to run out of money while in retirement. Bank interest is taxed as regular income, so it is less tax-efficient than investing. Bottom line, it would take more years than you have to live for your money to double in your bank account. 

11. Buy your home earlier

If you own a home, it helps to protect against inflation of housing costs and helps to decrease the chances of you running out of money while in retirement. Your home can be a last-minute safety net in other words. Your home will be much more than it is right now in the future and can be a large asset to you. It is most people’s goal to stay in their home and not have to use it as equity, but you have money if you need it. 

12. Think of ways to save without having to cut back

If you look at all of your costs per year, some simple planning can help you save thousands of dollars every year. If you negotiate your recurring bills, you can save a few hundred per month--something that can be a great asset in retirement.