Sunday, April 4, 2010

Thrifty Tennesseans take on filing their own taxes

Maylon Thompson usually relied on H&R Block to prepare his tax returns, but this year he decided to save $80 and do it himself.
"I saved money and got money back," said Thompson, whose refund came in the mail after he filed an online return with the help of the United Way.

Thompson is part of the hottest trend in tax filing this year: ditching paid preparers and doing it yourself.

The number of Tennessee taxpayers filing from their home computers is up 8 percent to 573,697 this tax season, according to the IRS.

At the same time, the country's largest tax preparation chains are seeing declines in traffic.

"People want to save money, and they're realizing that it's easier with tax software than the old-fashioned way of doing it on paper," said Dan Boone, IRS spokesman in Tennessee.

Some 1.492 million tax returns have been electronically filed in Tennessee, up by about 750 returns filed by this point last year, Boone said.

Dao Dao, a retiree in Columbia, Tenn., also wanted to save money, and filled out paper forms himself with resources such as the IRS telephone helpline and a local senior citizens center to answer tax questions.

Two years ago, Dao paid a chain tax preparation firm $174 and last year spent $120 with an accountant.

Dao, who formerly worked as an operations technician at Spring Hill's General Motors plant, said he typically never got to ask the tax preparers many questions about deductions and such because the longer he stayed, the more expensive the service became.

"But the more you keep quiet, you don't learn nothing," he said.

Preparers see slump

Two of the largest tax preparation chains have reported declines in business this tax season.

H&R Block said same-office returns prepared in retail operations this tax season through mid-March fell 5.1 percent compared with last year. Total tax returns prepared were down 6.3 percent, while total retail returns prepared fell 7.6 percent.

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