Free Online Tax Resources for Small Business Owners & The Self-Employed

Now that the 2012 tax season is in full swing, it's time to get the proverbial ball rolling with your business tax return preparations. If you want to maximize your return while holding on to as much of your precious time and money as you can, then make sure to check out these free tax resources for small business owners and the self-employed.

The IRS has put together a an incredible resource for small and home-based business owners and anyone classified as self-employed. If you have never visited their Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center, then I urge you to do so. The site is easy to navigate and offers a wealth of useful information and resources that are clearly presented, spanning federal and state agencies as well as industry/profession specific categories. You will also find links to starting and operating a business, employment taxes, tax law changes for business, business-related forms and publications, and online learning options- many of which I have referenced in previous posts.

Even if you are hiring an accountant, tax preparer, or have invested in tax preparation and accounting software, you should still make an effort to understand the basics of business taxation. There are also some products that are specific to a country (for example Intuit has Profile, which is a professional tax software package exclusive to Canada.)

Here is a rundown of some quick, IRS business tax links you might be interested in:

  • IRS E-File - Includes Free File for individuals who earned $57,000 or less in 2012.
  • IRS Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop - Here you'll find several interactive lessons designed to help new small business owners learn their tax rights and responsibilities.
  • IRS Video Portal - The IRS Video Portal offers video and audio presentations on tax topics for small businesses, individuals and tax professionals.
  • Industries/Professions - Visit this page for tax information specific to certain industries and professions.
  • Index of IRS Business Forms, Forms Instructions, Publications and Late Products - If you are looking for a specific tax form, get it directly from the source. Most of the forms include instructions.
  • A Guide to Employment Taxation for Small Businesses Tax Guide - All you need to know about hiring and employment taxes. If you have employees, you are responsible for several federal, state, and local taxes. Find out which ones and how you should go about paying them.
  • Filing Late and/or Paying Late - Find out what options exist for filing and paying late as well as the process you will need to go through for each one. You'll also find a complete breakdown of "penalty" fees.
  • IRS e-News for Small Businesses - A free email news letter that offers tax information for small business owners and self-employed individuals. It is distributed every Wednesday.

Free and Low-Cost Online Tax Preparation Software

Three of the biggest tax software companies, TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct, offer free online federal tax filing options for those planing on filing a 1040EZ or a simple tax return. (Keep in mind though, that you will still need to complete a state tax return.) Paid online versions for more robust processing and more complex returns (for example, those that include Schedule C  for self-employment income) are not so expensive and are definitely worth considering. Not only will these services help you complete your tax return, but they also offer tips and information to help you maximize your deductions and increase your payback.

  • TurboTax - TurboTax from Intuit is arguably the most robust program of the lot, but it's also the most expensive. If you plan on filing a simple return you may want to check it out.
  • H&R Block - The ubiquitous tax preparation franchise also provides an online software package. The free "At Home" version supports several common IRS forms and schedules, and the paid versions are reasonably priced.
  • Tax ACT - In addition to its free e filing service, Tax ACT offers the cheapest tax preparation package (the most expensive option is just $17.95), but reviews tend to vary on the quality of the experience. Some customers have claimed inaccuracies in their reports and insufficient tax filing help, so you might want to do a little research before choosing this option.

Other Free Tax Resources Online

Here are a few other miscellaneous free tax preparation resources that you may want to check out:

  • Nolo - A compendium of articles and FAQ's on business tax legal issues involving LLCs, corporations, sole proprietorships.
  • State Tax and Revenue Departments - From the Yahoo Directory
  • TaxACT has compiled a list of top tax law changes for 2012 federal returns due April 15, 2013. You should also check out their tax calander and tax dictionary.