Filing Your Returns Electronically – How To Avoid A Comedy of Errors

“I was walking home one night and a guy hammering on a roof called me a paranoid little weirdo. In Morse code.”
These are the words of Emo Phillips, my new tax advisor. Let me explain.

Getting tax advice from a comedian has it’s advantages. Firstly, I don’t get charged $100 an hour for advice I could have looked up on the internet myself. Secondly, it’s the only way I can stop from crying when I see how much I owe.

I had always filed my taxes the old fashioned way. Libraries no longer stock 1040 forms, schedule C and E’s, etc.  All stuff I need. This is by design as the IRS has made it a major initiative to convert as many paper filers to digital as possible.

Having been a victim of ID theft in the past, I’m reluctant to send my social security number through cyberspace, unencumbered by security constraints or safeguards put in place by the IRS and USPS to keep my information from finding it’s way into the wrong hands.

After reading countless articles about internet ID theft, it appears to me that some degree of paranoia may be a healthy thing. I thought I should share what I learned with others who, like me, will file taxes electronically for the first time. In short, I asked myself, what would Emo do?

Here are a few do’s an dont’s of electronic filing:

Use a Reputable Tax Prep Software

While TurboTax seems to be the consensus choice for secure tax return software, there are many reputable vendors. Other dependable and secure softwares include H&R Block, TaxAct, Complete Tax, and TaxSlayer.

Update and Run Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Programs

Before you begin preparing your taxes be sure to scan your computer for viruses and malware. It’s not the tax prep software that cause the breach in internet security, it’s usually your computer and what’s already lurking in the recesses of your laptop.

Don’t Use the Public Library’s Computer

Public computers are infamous for being infected with spyware and key-loggers that will take your information and disseminate it before you can say “Two tickets to Belize…and I’ll take that diamond necklace too”.

Don’t File Over a Starbucks Latte

There’s a reason why you get that warning on your computer screen when using wi-fi in a public place. Public networks are not secure…at all. If you really want the folks in your local coffee shop to know that you’re writing off those hair plugs as a business expense, then have at it. Otherwise, wait till after your latte and use a secure connection.

Delete E-mails from the IRS

The IRS doesn’t send emails. If and when they contact you, it will be via USPS in a nice, white envelop. These “IRS” emails are most assuredly from scammers and opening them can let loose a virus that’ll scoop up all your personal info and send it directly to Sergei so he can buy that Russian prostitute he’s had his eye on.

Have Your Refund Deposited Directly

Request that your refund be deposited directly into your band account. ‘Nuff said.

This coming year I’ll be taking my tax advice from another stand-up comic, Lord Carrett. Lord used to tell a story about a fellow comedian and friend who was concerned about a young woman he had noticed following him around in a creepy kind of way. When asked if she was good looking his friend responded to the affirmative, to which Lord quipped “Then she’s not a stalker, she’s a fan“.

I got my refund earlier than expected this past year, and it was all done electronically. Call me a fan.

Richard Rossi is a blogger, humor writer and illustrator from Greensboro, North Carolina. Look for his work in a
book store near you or visit him at his website, www.rossibook.com.