12 On Your Side: Online tax filing vs. tax office filing

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Feb. 6, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Whether you file your taxes online or with a professional, it can be stressful.

If you do it wrong, Uncle Sam could audit you. Tax experts said online filing can be great but if you have any doubts about going it alone, get it done at a professional tax office.

"You can put numbers in a computer and print out a very nice looking tax return. It could be absolutely wrong but it looks pretty," Stephen Harvey, master tax advisor with H & R Block in Augusta said.

What looks like the perfect tax return won't necessarily protect you from an IRS audit which is why Harvey said you want to get it right the first time.

He said doing your taxes online can be just as good as visiting a tax professional.

"They're good if you know what you are doing but you still gotta know basic tax laws," Harvey said.

But if you are not able to tell a W-2 from a 1040, Harvey recommends meeting with an expert, especially if you have a family. "Self-employed person two or three kids with a wife. Wife works, it gets more complicated," Harvey said.

However if you are single with just one W-2, filing online through TaxAct or TurboTax should be less complicated. Reviews.com tax expert Andrew Poulos ranks the five best software programs with H&R Block and TurboTax at the top of the list.

Harvey, whose been a tax professional for nearly 20 years, said too often, online filers miss out on the biggest refunds. That is the theme behind H&R Block 2014 ad campaign.

"My biggest concern is people go online they do their tax return, they get a refund. They are happy with the refund, a year goes by they haven't gotten any letters from the IRS. They say well that's good I did it right," Harvey said.

If by chance you made a mistake on last year's tax return, you may receive a letter from the IRS in the next few months. Harvey said the IRS typically alerts tax payers of any errors on their returns about 18 months after filing.

News 12 is hosting a tax question phone bank on Feb. 27 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Tax professionals will be available to answer your questions.


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