Tax time can be stressful every year, but tax time during a pandemic presents its own unique challenges. With social distancing measures in place across the country to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are encouraged – and may be required – to find an alternative to the traditional method of sitting down with an accountant to file your taxes.
We reached out to H&R Block, one of our top picks for Best Tax Software for 2020, and financial planning experts to learn more about the best ways to file your taxes while staying a safe distance from others.
1. File by yourself using tax software
DIY file online
H&R Block offers a do-it-yourself option to file on your computer or your smartphone using its online tax platform. Depending on the complexity of your return, you may even be able to file your return for free.
The tool will walk you through the process, but to help the process go even more smoothly, Shannah Compton Game, CFP, founder of the Millennial Money Podcast recommends that you “make sure you have all of your tax forms in front of you before you file.”
File using desktop software
H&R Block‘s website also allows you to purchase and download the tax software directly to your computer without requiring a trip to the store.
Concerned about filing by yourself? Joy Liu, a Financial Trainer at The Financial Gym, told us you have little to worry about if you won’t need to itemize your expenses because they don’t exceed the standard deduction of $12,200 for individuals and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.
“If you haven’t incurred more deductions than the standard deduction, rest easy that you are more than capable of filing your own taxes,” Liu says.
2. File with help from pros online
Upload your documents and be done
With the H&R Block Tax Pro Go option, users can upload their tax documents and a tax professional will complete the rest of the process for them, all without a visit to an office.
“Many CPAs are also offering virtual visits where you can talk about the decision to file your taxes now or hold off until the new tax deadline,“ Compton Game says.
Get on-demand help from tax pros
If you’re looking for help along the way, but are comfortable entering the information required yourself, you can opt for Online Assist.
To make all of this information easier to access, Liu recommends that you “keep a tax folder on your computer and be sure to download/scan all of your tax documents and place them in the folder as you receive them.”
3. Use a drop-off service
An option will be appealing for people who are looking for an approach that’s totally hands-off, H&R Block is encouraging people to use its drop-off service to stay safe. All you need to do is bring your tax documents to your local office, drop them off, and a tax professional will do the rest.
Should you wait to file?
While the U.S. government has postponed both the deadline to file your taxes as well as the deadline to pay your taxes to July 15th, it still makes sense to file as soon as possible if you will receive a refund.
“If you owe money on your taxes it might make sense to hold off filing until the July 15 tax filing deadline and use your cash right now to shore up any lost wages,” Compton Game says. But don’t lose sight of the future. ”Just make sure you can replace it in time to pay any taxes you might owe.”