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-- by Deborah K. Wong
If tax preparation software like Intuit's TurboTax or Kiplinger TaxCut makes that arduous process a little less painful, then the Internet and an outlay of a few dollars could be your passport to nirvana.
Parsons Technology, of Hiawatha, Iowa, maker of Personal Tax Edge software, plans to go live this month with an online site that does your dirty work (http://www.parsonstech.com/java1/qualifier/1040ezapp.html). The site will ask eight or nine questions that require a simple yes or no reply. The site then determines if you qualify for the 1040EZ form. If so, it automatically links you to the form, which includes an interview process that helps you fill it out. Then, fork over $9.95 and hit Send. Parsons will even mail you a copy of your filing for your records.
For now, the 1040EZ is the only form Parsons is making available online. Universal Tax Systems of Rome, Ga., meanwhile, is even more ambitious: It's putting most personal tax forms online (http://188.8.131.52) with a guide to walk you through the preparation process-free. The catch is that it doesn't print the forms in a fileable format; either you copy the information by hand onto the paper equivalents, or you pony up $9.95, and the company will do the filing for you. For an extra $1, Audit Alert will screen your return for IRS red flags.
The larger tax software providers have so far declined to enter this arena. But if the trend catches on, expect other vendors-including Intuit, which coincidentally owns Parsons Technology-to jump on the bandwagon next year.