We’re fast approaching the fever pitch of what’s become known in this country as Tax Season. Just as with baseball season, football season, hunting season, or any other finite period of time that involves high emotion and some level of competition (hey, it’s you vs. Uncle Sam, right?), tax season produces winners and losers. The definition of what it means to “win” or “lose” for normal folks during tax season can get a bit blurry. The unquestioned winners in all of this are tax preparation services. They make a lot of money getting you your money (or helping you pay less).
A quick search of the library’s ReferenceUSA database found 73,034 businesses currently engaged in Tax Preparation Services (NAICS 541213) across the United States. According to the 2007 Economic Census (containing slightly older, but deeper, data than RefUSA), this industry employs over 215,000 workers, and boasts annual payroll numbers approaching $3 billion. That’s a whole lot of W2s, my friends!
CLP staffers have created a handy list of our locations offering free tax preparation assistance. The site also contains links to other non-CLP sites offering tax help, downloadable forms, and other related services. Following those prompts you can find a link to one of my favorite tax-related documents, Publication 17. Just like a good comedian can find comedy in tragedy, so too can our friends at the IRS wring a laugh or two out of our tax code. Case in point, bribery income. On page 92, under the Other Income section, Pub 17 says:
Bribes. If you receive a bribe, include it in your income.
Interesting, eh? But Pub 17 does not stop there! Income from all sorts of illegal activities happens to be taxable. Page 94 lays it out quite clearly:
Illegal activities. Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity.
If you do find yourself with income to report, whether legal or not, you might feel at a loss for where to begin. In addition to the links above, a number of excellent books will help you come to grips with this sometimes thorny topic. Here we present just a few examples:
J.K. Lasser’s 1001 Deductions And Tax Breaks
Working For Yourself : Law & Taxes For Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Consultants
Also, beware of predatory operations offering usurious “refund anticipation loans.” While not instantaneous, filing with a reputable e-filer will get you your refund in short order, especially if you file early.
This year’s tax deadline is Tuesday, April 17. If you haven’t done so already, take a little time to prepare your taxes early and you will save yourself from a lot of stress and discomfort!