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The Taxman Cometh

Spring is almost here, and with it,-tax season. Time to dig the W-2s and 1099s out! To keep your hunt for tax forms and information brief, here are some resources to help you.

Federal Taxes
Most filing forms are available on the Web in PDF (portable document format), and downloadable using standard Adobe Acrobat reader software, ready to print on a standard laser or inkjet printer. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) site www.irs.gov/ is a treasure trove of forms, and, in particular, a good source for the less-frequently-used, exotic ones such as “Certain Gambling Winnings” (W-2G) and “U.S. Departing Alien Income Tax Return” (1040C). However, as April 15 approaches, the IRS server is bound to become more taxed itself, so it’s best to start early.

Baker Library has commonly used forms onsite, across from the main desk. An IRS binder containing all reproducible 2001 forms and instructions, for both individuals and businesses, is also on reserve at the main library desk.

If searching for such typical forms as 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ, try such web sites as 1040.com www.1040.com/ or TaxWorld www.taxworld.org/. These sites contain forms back to 1994, too; so if you are filing late due to an extension, or amending a filing for a previous year, you’ll have good resources.

To be sure that you are up on the latest changes to the tax code, check out IRS Publication 553, Highlights of 2001 Tax Changes www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p553.pdf. Topics covered here include student loan interest deductions, new capital gains rates and IRA contributions credits, among others.

State Taxes
Residents of Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming are the lucky one-stop filers, with only Federal taxes due. The rest of us will have to file state returns with at least one state Department of Revenue, perhaps two or more. Even in New Hampshire and Tennessee, you are now required to report dividends and interest income. A good source of general state tax information is the Tax and Accounting Site Directory www.taxsites.com/, with links to the Departments of Revenue (DOR) and tax forms for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Non-US tax information can also be found here.
Most state tax sites have search features to help you locate the more obscure sorts of forms should you need them. Many DORs also have telephone help lines or FAQ (“Frequently-Asked-Questions”) posted on the Web sites to help explain the more common sorts of problems that taxpayers may encounter.

Other Tax Tips, Help and General Information
Baker Library also has the 2001 edition of J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax in the Reference section of the Reading Room (Call number HJ4652 .J2). This handbook includes strategies and explanations for many of the finer points of filing. A cautionary note about some of the tax information web sites you might find when searching for answers to tax questions: accounting firms and companies that produce tax-filing software often produce such help sites. Such information is often meant to be a “teaser” to induce you to hire or buy from them. Legal disclaimers notwithstanding, the sites can still be a good place to start for basic questions. We’ve listed some of them below. You can also find these (and more) in the Tax Guide on the Baker Library web site www.library.hbs.edu/taxsites.htm.

Tax and Accounting Sites Directory

www.taxsites.com: If you’re a tax junkie whose interest in tax and tax theory goes beyond that of simply paying what you owe on time, you’ll love this meta-site. Besides the obligatory links to federal and state personal income tax information, this site includes information on corporate and business tax, international tax, accounting, policy and statistics.

TaxCut.com- taxcut.com Provides lists of typical ways to cut your tax bill. An H&R Block product.

H&R Block Refund Calculator www.hrblock .com/taxes/tools/index.html: A quick and dirty way to estimate what you’ll be getting back – or will need to pay.

IRS Tax FAQ www.irs.gov These questions and answers can help you wade through the federal tax jungle.

In addition to these sources, most standard federal and state tax forms and instruction booklets are available at your local post office, including the Spangler and Harvard Square post offices. Finally, don’t forget your public libraries if you live off campus.
Tax time can be a bit stressful, but there are lots of resources to help you on your way.

March 11, 2002
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