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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013

Free tax prep for military and civilians



As we approach tax season, TurboTax is offering free simple tax prep for military personnel.

E1s through E5s get free federal and state for a limited time. Kudos too to TurboTax for writing additional software that addresses the unique tax situations facing our brave men and women in uniform.

Meanwhile, for civilians the IRS Free File program will offer links to free tax prep software online beginning Jan. 30, 2013.

In prior years, any taxpayer could use the IRS free tax prep. Then strict income limits went in place recently to prevent those who made higher incomes from using it. We'll have to wait and see where they set the adjusted gross income cutoff this year.

One special warning for those anticipating a refund: Many state legislatures are doing rip-off programs where they issue your refund on a debit card if you live in a state with a state income tax. You may have to pay fees to get at your own money from your own refund. It's disgusting and despicable, considering that it's your money that you made an unfortunate interest-free loan of to your state all year.

I want you to opt opt of receiving your refund on a debit card and get a paper check or direct deposit instead.

Finally, never do a refund loan. The effective interest rate you pay is typically somewhere around 600%. And besides, if you set up direct deposit for your refund, you'll get it in little more than a week. Why would you pay 600% interest just to get your money in three days instead of seven or eight days?!