#parent | #kids | ‘Tis the season for folks to seek help of tax-prep software


I’ve never done my own taxes. I was always afraid I’d mess up.

Yet I’ve known about tax software for years. I met my late husband, Bob Schwabach, when I was in public relations, trying to get him to write about it. He never did review my rinky-dink client. Having been among the first to write about Intuit, he said it was best.

I’m a convert now. Intuit’s TurboTax website makes it so easy. I went there and clicked “connect with an expert.” I got a phone call from a folksy guy who drives a school bus. He explained how I could do the taxes myself, paying anywhere from nothing to $170, the filing fee for complex returns. TurboTax reviews all filings.

If you file your taxes by March 27 and have an adjusted gross income of less than $39,000, TurboTax will assign a tax expert to help you for free. It has many other options as well, such as paying $50 for maximum audit protection. Or, you could do a web search on “IRS Free File,” and choose one of the programs recommended on irs.gov.

I went with TurboTax because of their “do my taxes for me” button. Next year I’ll try it on my own. With our Fidelity account, TurboTax automatically filled in all the details. The same goes for eTrade. But there were some points in the process where my eyes glazed over and I got confused. Fortunately, the folksy guy I talked to said if TurboTax did the whole thing for me, my total bill would be around $300. That’s a lot less than we paid an accounting firm last year.

PARTY ONLINE

Staring at a wall of faces in a Google Meet or Zoom meeting can be tiring. That’s not how you would interact at a party. You’d go from small group to small group. Toucan makes this possible. It’s designed to host virtual social events.

On its website, Toucan.events, click on a demo to see it in action. You’ll see your face in its own circle, and other circles to click on. I hovered over one showing a young man and woman and clicked “Join.” Right away they started talking to me. Though this is a canned demo, it’s quite realistic. I felt like I was really participating. It would be great at an online wedding or big event. Friends could find friends, kids could find kids, and private one-on-one chats could take place with video, not just text.

FREE TRIAL TIP

To avoid getting dinged when a free trial is up, cancel the same day you sign up. I do it all the time. Only once did the free trial cut off prematurely.

On an iPhone, cancel a subscription by tapping “Settings,” then your name, then “Subscriptions,” and finally the service you want to cancel. On Android, open the Play Store app, tap the hamburger icon, (looks like three stacked lines), then “Subscriptions,” and choose the one you want to cancel. Or you can go to the company’s website. Find your account by clicking the hamburger icon.

NOT FAKING IT

Recently, I wrote about the business of fake reviews on Amazon. A modest form of fakery is writing a review to get a free product. But such reviews are not always fake.

“I do quite a few reviews, particularly if I like the product,” a reader wrote. “Being in business myself, I don’t usually give negative ones. If one of my customers has a bad experience with my product or service, I want the opportunity to make it right, and I give online sellers the same consideration.

“I’ve taken advantage of refunds in exchange for positive reviews,” he continued, adding that he’d never write something favorable just to get a free product. After reviewing a power washer he loved, for example, he got a message from the seller. They offered him a refund on the new version if he gave it five stars. Or, he could return it and get his money back. He thought the new power washer was worth the stars, so he bought it.

APP HOGS

I had no idea my phone apps might be automatically connecting with mobile data, rather than waiting till I’m in range of Wi-Fi. That can get expensive.

On Android phone, go to “Settings,” tap “Apps and Notifications,” and “see all apps.” Turn off data on any big data hog. On an iPhone, go to “Settings,” then tap “Cellular.” Tap the switch next to any app to turn it off.

Alternatively, you can turn off mobile data for every app in one fell swoop. Android systems vary, but on mine, I tap “Settings,” then “Network & Internet,” then “Mobile network,” and toggle the “Mobile Data” switch to the off position. On an iPhone, go to “Settings,” then “Mobile Data,” and turn off automatic use. Turn it back on if you’re away from free Wi-Fi and need to connect.

INTERNUT

“Every Alexa command you can give to your Amazon Echo.” Search on that phrase to see CNET’s complete list. For instance, say, “Alexa, what’s the latest on the coronavirus?” Or: “Alexa, help me wash my hands.” She’ll sing a rap song to keep you scrubbing for 20 seconds.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at joy.schwabach@gmail.com.



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