Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff
In recent years, the advent of powerful online tax-filing programs has threatened the business models of many full-service tax-preparation services. Since in-person tax filing services can cost several times as much as do-it-yourself packages, millions of taxpayers have migrated online during the past decade. In order to keep up with the changing times, most full-service tax-preparation chains now offer online filing services. Some technology-savvy services offer innovative "hybrid" programs that permit online filers to consult directly with a tax professional without paying additional fees. Many others use the revenues from their state-specific filing services to offset the cost of their "free" federal filing services.
If you work at one or two jobs and lack savings, retirement accounts, mortgage obligations or business interests, your tax situation is probably relatively simple. With just a handful of income streams and a few miscellaneous deductions, it might take just an hour or two for you to file your taxes. If this is the case, your chances of making serious mistakes on your federal or state tax returns are relatively small.
On the other hand, a more complicated tax situation might dramatically increase the likelihood that you'll make a major filing error. If
you're self-employed or have multiple investments, business interests and debt obligations, you'll need to file multiple tax forms. More importantly, you'll need to keep track of all of your disparate sources of income. This will involve producing a Form-1099 or its equivalent from each of your interest-accruing investments. To ensure that you account for all of your income, you'll almost certainly need to talk to a tax professional.
If you've misplaced one of your income statements or mistakenly claimed the wrong amount of "adjusted income," you may need to take steps to correct the record. If you file an incorrect tax return and discover the mistake after receiving your refund, you'll need to file an amended return with the IRS. In order to do so, you'll need to consult your tax professional and obtain a paper copy of Form 1040-X. This is the only form that the IRS accepts from individuals who wish to amend their tax returns.
Your amended return will almost certainly affect the size of your tax refund. Once you've filed your amended return, you'll need to await instructions from the IRS. If your new return increased the total amount of your taxable income. you may be required to send a check to cover your new tax obligations.