“It’s a snowball effect,” said Dave Du Val, TaxAudit.com’s vice president of customer advocacy.
“The complexities of the tax code are only affecting those of us trying to read it,” National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said in an interview. Tax software makes a lot of those complexities invisible to most people.
As a result, taxpayers might not realize they’re being helped by a wide array of deductions and credits. “They have no idea of the benefits they are getting through the tax code,” she said.
One simplification: Many investors will find it easier to report stock sales if the 1099-B forms they receive contain key details of the sale and the correct basis for computing gains and losses.
The IRS processed more than 147 million tax returns in 2013, down slightly from the previous year. More than 109 million taxpayers received refunds, which averaged $2,744, also slightly less than in 2012.
The upward trend of electronic filing continued, with more than 83 percent of returns being filed online. The biggest jump, 4.6 percent, was among people who used software programs to do their own taxes.
The IRS is continuing to offer its Free File option, which is available to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $58,000 or less. These taxpayers can use brand-name software to file their taxes at no cost. Some states also participate. The agency also has an option for taxpayers of all incomes - Free File Fillable Forms - which does basic calculations but does not offer the guidance that a software package would.
For the 2013 tax year, the personal exemption is $3,900. The standard deduction is $12,200 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $6,100 for singles and $8,950 for heads of household.
Many credits and deductions were extended for 2013, including several for education. Among them: the American Opportunity Credit of up to $2,500 per student for tuition and fees and deductions for student loan interest and tuition-related expenses. Many of these are phased out at higher income levels.
Schoolteachers will still be able to deduct up to $250 in out-of-pocket expenses for books or other supplies.