Written by: Chad Zollinger | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: August 13th, 2020
(This article is 1 of 15 chapters in The Definitive Guide to IRS Debt Forgiveness. Return to the guide to get the full explanation of IRS Debt Forgiveness.)
Tax Day is like an annoying cousin.
Most of the year, you can avoid him, but when the family reunion comes around, you know he'll be there. You may be able to dodge him successfully at the reunion with some careful planning, but, unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to avoid Tax Day.
Perhaps the most annoying part about tax season is its inevitability. No matter where you go, how long you live, or how much money you have, tax season comes for all of us.
Many taxpayers find themselves in deep trouble with the IRS, either because of irresponsibility, lack of knowledge, or even just a lack of money.
The most devastating aspect of tax season — the surprise of additional debt — can actually be avoided by a bit of foresight and a lot of thoughtful financial preparation. Like the line from Dante, "The arrow seen before cometh less rudely," if we prepare ourselves beforehand, we will avoid debilitating stress.
Because you're worried about tax debt, you need affordable tax tools. And because you're concerned about efficiency and speed during the stressful tax season, you need useful tax tools. Here are some of the best tax tools to use before the upcoming tax deadline:
IRS Tax Tools
The Internal Revenue Service website provides a variety of tax tools. While they aren't as fancy or extensive as third-party tools, IRS tax tools can be extremely useful.
The best part is they're absolutely free. An additional benefit to IRS tax tools is that you can be confident in their accuracy.
Some of the most useful tools provided by the IRS include the following:
- Free File: a tool for preparing and filing your taxes online
- Where's My Amended Return?: a tool for tracking your amended return status
- Where's My Refund?: a tool that lets you track the status of your tax return
- View Tax Account: allows you to see your payoff amount, balance for owed taxes by year, and 18 months of payment history
- Direct Pay: allows you to pay your tax bill directly from your bank account. You can also pay through the IRS' mobile app, IRS2Go.
There are over 15 other tools for taxpayers to use including some specifically designed for tax professionals and others made especially for business owners.
The downside to using tax tools provided by the IRS is that you don't get a dedicated tax professional or help with tax issues; such services are provided by third-party tools.
Powered by Tax Defense Network, TaxSafe is both affordable and useful and was designed to help taxpayers beyond TDN's base tax services.
Very few tax tools out there provide credit, tax, and ID theft services all in one tool; this is a unique and highly useful tool in the industry.
TaxSafe gives you essential protection services for not only your taxes but also monitors your credit and provides identity theft protection.
With its credit services, TaxSafe allows users to keep tabs with one Bureau (TransUnion) Credit Report semi-annually, provides 24/7 credit monitoring (including an alerts system for suspicious activity), tracks your credit score, gives users the ability to freeze accounts with their credit bureau, and tracks user scores monthly.
In addition to extensive tax monitoring services and its credit monitoring services, TaxSafe also provides users with ID Theft protection services including:
- Monitors Change of Address — an address change is a common sign of ID Theft
- SSN Action Alerts — monitors attempts to access sensitive personal information
- Data Sweeps — a scan that identifies places in which your personal information should not be (internet, dark web, financial, healthcare, and public sources)
- Data Breach — Alerts users in the event of applicable data breaches
- ID Risk Score — Alerts users when their risk score increases more than 10 percent
- Recovery Butler — Helps users recover/restore Personal ID information
- ID Theft Policy — Service is backed by a $1 million policy with a $0 deductible for a stolen identity
For customers in dire financial circumstances, TaxSafe Basic does provide a free package. However, there are more extensive service options.
The TaxSafe Plus package (described above) costs $22.99 per month (or $249.99 per year). TaxSafe VIP costs $27.99 per month (or $299.99 per year) and the most comprehensive TaxSafe package, TaxSafe Family, costs $34.99 per month (or $349.99 per year).
Though its extended services are a bit more expensive than TaxSafe, TaxSlayer can help people with simple tax returns and 1040 EZ forms for free. If you are willing to pay slightly higher prices, extended tax services include the following:
- E-filing Services
- Deduction Finder
- Fast W-2 Import
- Fast Fill Prior Year
- IRS Audit Assistance
- Free Email Support
- Live Phone Support
- Live Chat Support
- Priority Support
- Personal Tax Expert
Because this tool provides assistance and expertise for tax issues specifically, it doesn't include services in credit or ID theft monitoring. However, customers may consider using this tool depending on their unique financial situation.
Test the waters before jumping into any type of payment when it comes to tax tools. The aim of these tools is to save you money, so make sure you do a fair amount of comparison shopping before you commit. Try out the free versions in order to see if the extended services are worth the money.