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Tax-Time Tips

Helpful Guides and Links for Filing Taxes Online

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Worried about identity theft when filing your taxes online?  You aren't alone and there are a lot of resources out there for consumers to help you protect your personal information from landing into the wrong hands.

Helpful Links

  • - The Internal Revenue Service website.  They list trusted software for those who wish to file their returns online.
  • - I-CAN!, a website that will help you do your taxes for free.  Spanish and English are available.
  • - Investigate whether a tax preparer has any questionable history.  Check this website to determine whether a CPA is licensed and call to inquire if a CPA has a history of violations.
  • - A good resource to determining whether a tax preparer has a history of complaints.
  • - A list of AARP sites that help seniors and low-to-middle-income taxpayers with their tax returns for free.
  • - List of sites where people can receive free tax assistance.

Filing Online

  • Save Time When Searching:  The IRS doesn't offer software or direct filing, but there is a list of companies approved by the IRS at  Don't rely on search engines to help you find software to file online and always go directly to the company's web site.
  • Be Picky:  It is safer to go with software whose name you are familiar with.  You should be picky about who you share personal information with such as your Social Security number, income, assets, and bank account numbers.
  • Be Secure:  Avoid following links from emails and hang up the phone when callers are claiming to be with the IRS, your bank, or an accounting firm who asks for personal information.  Websites you go to should begin with "https:" instead of "http:" and a yellow "lock" icon should be visible on the bottom-right in the scroll bar.

Mailing In Your Tax Return

  • Be Secure:  Always send in your tax return either through a locked mail box or taking it directly to the post office.  Don't leave outgoing mail in an unsecure mail box where it can be stolen.
  • Incoming Mail:  Be sure to check your mailbox everyday for W-2 forms or other documents that arrive by mail during tax season.  These contain sensitive information that thieves can use to steal your identity.

Hiring a Tax Preparer

  • Research:  Always do research to ensure the person is reputable and able to meet your needs.  Ask your friends and coworkers to recommend a preparer they know and trust, find someone local so you can find them later, and ask questions related to the person's credentials and experience.
  • IRS Audits:  Choose a preparer who will assist you and represent taxpayers before the IRS in matters involving audits, collection, and appeals.  Look for attorneys, Certified Public Accountants, and IRS enrolled agents.  Also, know how the preparer checks returns for accuracy.
  • Education:  Find out if the preparer is affiliated with professional organization that provides or requires its members to pursue continuing education and holds them accountable to a code of ethics.
  • Background:  Investigate whether the preparer has any questionable history.  This is easy to do from the Washington State Board of Accountancy's Website at  For attorneys you can check through the Washington Bar Association and enrolled agents through the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility.
  • Better Business Bureau:  Is a good resource for determining whether a tax preparer has a history of complaints.
  • Larger Refunds?:  Ask about costs and be skeptical of preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than others.  Also watch out for guaranteed results or base fees on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
  • Double Check:  Always review the return carefully before you sign it in ink.  Never sign a blank or partially completed form.  The preparer must also sign the return and include an identifying number.  Retain copies of all documents.
  • Instant Refunds:  Some preparers promise instant cash refunds instead of waiting for the payment from the IRS.  These instant refunds are loans.  You are, in fact, paying fees to borrow against your own tax refund.  Loans have to be paid back and failure to do so could result in debt collection or a bad mark on your credit score.  Most often these loans will have a high interest rate attached onto them.

Free Tax Assistance

  • Who Can Apply:  Seniors and taxpayers who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit can receive free help filing their taxes at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites.  IRS-trained volunteers will help complete and file electronically at no cost.  Services are available in different languages.  Call the IRS at 1-800-TAX-1040 or visit for a list of locations.
  • AARP:  Seniors 60 and older and low-to-middle-income taxpayers can turn to help from AARP Tax-Aide sites.  Find locations at or call 1-888-AARP-NOW.