6 great resources for preparing your taxes

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If you haven't filed your taxes this year, you still have a few weeks to gather your paperwork and submit your tax return on time. When you're doing your taxes yourself, make sure you're turning to authoritative resources for answers and advice; making serious mistakes on your tax return could cost you in fines and penalties, and may even raise some red flags that trigger an audit.

Here are six great resources that can help you prepare your taxes without a hitch.

1. Free Online Tax Help From the IRS
Before you hire an accountant or tax preparer, check out the free resources available directly from the IRS, which is trying to make it easier than ever for taxpayers to file their returns online and get the information they need through its online portal. You can file for free online, make use of the Interactive Tax Assistant to get answers to specific questions and even use the IRS withholding calculator to make sure you are having an appropriate amount of taxes withheld with each paycheck.

[See: 10 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund.]

2. Free Tax Return Preparation from the IRS
If you earn $54,000 or less, are disabled or aren't a native English speaker, you can get tax preparation assistance from IRS-certified volunteers. Call 800-906-9887 to connect with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, offering free tax preparation services. You can also track down a VITA site in your community or neighborhood; volunteers may be available at area libraries, shopping malls and schools for one-on-one help during tax season.

3. Free Online Tax Preparation Software
DIYers will appreciate the multitude of free online tax software services available. Programs like TurboTax Federal Free Edition, TaxAct Free Federal Edition and H&R Block Free Edition walk you through the filing process step-by-step with a series of questions and forms you fill out for each section. The program will then run calculations and populate your tax filing forms so you can print them off to mail to the IRS or e-file directly.

4. Tax Advice from Online Resources
While there are thousands of personal finance bloggers and tax gurus out there sharing their tips and advice about preparing taxes, you will want to turn to authoritative sources like the IRS blog or other tips blogs from legitimate tax preparers or CPAs in your city or state. These blogs can be valuable sources of information when you have specific questions about filing your tax return, what you are allowed to write off and tax filing deadlines. Some law firms also offer legal advice on tax-related matters. Take a look at their website or blog for free legal help on various tax issues.

[See: Answers to 7 Burning Tax Questions.]

5. Tax Advice and Resources From Your State's Department of Revenue
Head to your state's department of revenue website for current information about state tax return filing dates, requirements and forms available for download. These sites can be valuable resources for finding area tax preparation sites and events, as well as volunteer tax aides and free legal help for filing your state taxes. Some states offer free live chat services during business hours if you just need someone to point you in the right direction or send you a link to forms and other resources.

6. Free Tax Clinics in Your Area
Some local law schools and public libraries may offer free tax clinics for eligible local residents during the weeks leading up to Tax Day. Law schools, for example, host low-income tax clinic events to help clients with audit representation, collections issues and other more complex situations. You could register for a clinic or workshop to learn how to prepare your taxes accurately and get legal advice without paying high legal fees. These can be valuable events to connect with a local tax professional and get answers to questions that you may not have found anywhere online. You can also learn some important skills for preparing your taxes on your own next year.

[Read: What to Do If You Owe the IRS but Can't Pay.]

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

Related: Hot tech gadgets to buy with your tax refund

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Hot tech gadgets to buy with your tax refund
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6 great resources for preparing your taxes

2. The light that shines in more ways than one

This little gadget goes above and beyond, giving your work space a touch of style, while also being incredibly practical. The Mighty Bright has two USB ports that allow you to charge your phone, tablet or other electronic device. Plus, its built-in perch allows for both vertical and horizontal display. So, you'll never miss an update that comes in while you're working.

3. A super-functional tablet

This compact tablet is perfect for both work and play. It comes fully loaded with Windows 10 and has its own keyboard case, which makes it ideal for getting work done on the go. Use it to check email, review Excel sheets or perfect your PowerPoint presentation. And, since it's a tablet, you'll also have access to all of your favorite apps. This means you can check in with friends on Facebook, send tweets, pin to Pinterest, browse the Web and play games like solitaire.

4. A whole new way to print out ideas

The truth is that 3-D printers aren't as expensive as you might think -- at least when it comes to consumer models, like the 3-D Desktop Printer from HICTOP. And, while they may not be a practical solution for everyone, no one can argue that they're incredibly fun. Use this gadget to make personalized gifts, key chains, trinkets and toys. It prints at speeds of 120 mm per second, and supports an SD card.

5. The easiest way to open your garage door

If you prefer something that's truly practical, then go for the GogoGate 2 Garage Door Opener. It makes opening your garage door and any gates to your home much easier. Just install the device, then download the app (which is free for both Apple and Android). The app allows you to sync up to three different doors or gates, and even share access with temporary guests.

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