Editors' pick: Originally published Jan. 17.
The IRS starts accepting tax returns on Jan. 23, so you need to think about how you're actually going to prepare your return.
Sure, you can hire someone. And if your return is super complicated, then that may be a good idea.
But if your tax situation is relatively straightforward, there are so many ways to get it done on your own.
DIY is so fashionable these days. So empower yourself.
And depending on your income level, it might not even cost you anything.
Free Is For Me!
The Internal Revenue Service's Free File program is up and running again. Since 2003, Uncle Sam has partnered with a bunch of online tax preparation companies, and together they offer free preparation and electronic filing (e-filing) to taxpayers whose 2016 adjusted gross income (AGI) was $64,000 or less.
Given that 49 million taxpayers have taken advantage of this freebie since it launched, maybe you should too.
There are 12 online tax companies involved, and most offer free preparation and e-filing for a federal and state return. The "free" part is based on income, age and/or state residency, so be sure to check out the individual requirements here.
If you make more than $64,000, then take advantage of the "battle of the tax prep sites."
Turbo Tax and H&R Block are tripping over themselves to compete. So they've amped up their offerings.
If your AGI is less than $100,000 in 2016, TurboTax's AbsoluteZero program will let you file a 1040EZ or 1040A plus a state form for free, as long as you don't itemize.
About 60 million people file either of those simple returns, so check it out.
Do It On An App
Since we do everything else on our phones, it makes sense that we start preparing our tax returns there as well.
Also consider downloading IRS2Go. Uncle Sam has had an app for a few years now, and while you can't prepare your return on it, you can track the status of your tax refund and follow IRS communications on social media.
And being able to toggle between the app on your phone and your tablet or laptop is key for many people. "About 50% of TurboTax users touch the mobile app at some point," says Lisa Greene-Lewis CPA, communications manager and tax expert at Intuit.
More Help for the Sharing Economy
And another big trend this tax season is trying to home in on the sharing economy and the self-employed. About one-third of the workforce is made up of freelancers, ride-share drivers or other self-employed people like real estate agents.
In an effort to take advantage of their store fronts, H&R Block launched TaxEdge, a new mobile app. It basically combines the web and the company's agents so that self-employed folks can take advantage of both.
TurboTax's self-employed product offers on-demand, one-way video -- that means you see them, they can't see you preparing your return in your fuzzy slipper -- so you can quickly connect to tax pro who specializes in self-employed stuff.
So start by checking out these products. See what you're comfortable with before you dive in.
Don't be afraid to do it yourself. Everything is very user-friendly these days. And we'll be here the whole tax season to help.