Yes, taxes can be complicated to do. You need to have some solid math skills and the million deductions, filings and returns can drive anyone up the wall - you may even need to break out an Excel sheet! Each new season brings with it a need for tax preparation (and bouts of anxiety, for some of us!) and sadly, school/college doesn’t necessarily teach you this life skill.
While there are plenty of books and different software that can help you out, it isn’t the same as taking a class, both in terms of the environment as well as the learning efficiency. Software generally means shortcuts, while books can contain too much information; unless you know what you’re doing, the amount of information in books can be overwhelming! In such cases, online tax preparation courses are the way to go — designed to be simple, easy to follow and to the point, such online courses are great for a range of learners, from beginners to seasoned professionals. Additionally, they’re flexible, meaning you can take them according to your schedule and availability.
To help you out this tax season, here’s a roundup of our top online tax preparation courses!
Rethinking International Tax Law — Coursera
Of course, it’s hardly a surprise that a Coursera course would figure on our list; the world’s largest MOOC platform has a course on almost every conceivable topic and tax preparation is no exception! Designed to cope with the changing demands of international taxation and the planning strategies of multinational corporations, this course equips learners with the knowledge to become fully informed on the foundations and practice of international tax laws. It also addresses the constant developments in the field and the ethics revolving around tax planning. A great option for those with multinational clients or those preparing taxes across borders, this course takes place an estimated 31 hours to complete and has flexible deadlines.
How to Prepare Your Taxes for Entrepreneurs — Udemy
Aimed at those who want to prepare their own tax returns, with a special focus on self-employment, Schedule C and minimizing tax liability, this course from Udemy covers a range of topics that’ll make tax filing for entrepreneurs much easier. It leads students through every detail required to efficiently file Schedule C and report business activities for the same; it instills the confidence, backed by the knowledge, to know that your filed returns are correct, every legal deduction has been incorporated, and how your overall business activity affects your overall tax situation. Though this is open to students of all levels, it only covers the business part of taxes and is updated regularly to stay relevant; regardless of when you access the class, you’ll have access to the latest tax information.
How to Prepare Your Taxes — Udemy
The “How to Prepare Your Taxes” course is one of the most basic tax prep courses out there, enabling a very basic understanding of personal finances; if you’ve never touched a tax return form before or have no idea of the basics of taxation, this course will take care of it for you! There are no prerequisites for this course, except an intention to better your personal finances, a desire to understand how income tax works and how it affects their finances, become more confident and eliminate all guesswork when they file returns, and just efficiently file their US income tax returns. Additionally, students will learn how to avoid overpaying tax and save money by preparing their own returns, instead of paying professionals. However, the course doesn’t cover rental property deductions and income or self-employment reporting.
Financial Record-Keeping — Lynda.Com
The cornerstone of any healthy business, this course by Lynda helps students maintain accurate records to enable intelligent decision making, comply with all the legal requirements of the IRS, and even evaluate their business if they’re planning to sell it. Taught by professors Jim and Kay Stice, this financial record keeping covers topics such as creating forecasts, quantitative business plans, capturing sales and expenses data, understanding reporting of income tax and preparing reports to get funding from investors and institutes. This introductory course, which requires no prior account knowledge, helps you understand the very core of business function. It’s a great option for those who are tax preparers with their own business and can even give experts a few tips, despite being designed for beginners. You also get a 14-day free trial to decide whether you want to commit financially.
U.S Income Taxes: Income Preparation Simplified for You — Udemy
A great course for beginners, this course is designed for personal use and provides information on a highly simplified level that enables students to confidently, accurately and efficiently e-file their tax returns sans any external help. The course covers a range of topics such as liabilities, refunds, preparing your own state and federal returns and the basic federal tax laws. It’s also a relatively short course, with only 2.5 hours of video lectures, and earns you a lifetime full access and a certificate of completion. Being a beginner’s course, you may think this is too much of a cakewalk for you; if you do, you can always get your money back with Udemy’s money-back guarantee.
Federal Taxation I: Individuals, Employees, and Sole Proprietors — Coursera
An intermediate-level course, this offering from Coursera is the first in a series of five certification courses; however, you don’t have to sign up for the whole thing and take individual classes. Through this course, students will learn everything they need to know to fill out their individual tax returns, specifically Form 1040. It also covers a range of topics such as gross income, statutorily excluded or included items in the gross income, business and personal expenses that count towards tax deductions and the difference in tax treatments for self-employed persons as opposed to employees. The course takes around 40 hours to complete and requires a commitment of 6-8 hours a week.
Business Tax Foundations — Lynda.Com
A course designed for beginners, this course helps professional accountants transition to business taxes or accounting at small firms. Conducted by Professor Michael McDonald, the “Business Tax Foundations” course covers a range of topics such as quarterly, monthly and annual taxes at the state and federal levels and using a SEP account to reduce your annual taxes. It also helps you determine whether you qualify for the pass-through tax break. The course has a free trial period before you decide to financially commit to it.
Tax Preparation: Learn Fast! Prepare Taxes with Confidence! — Udemy
A comprehensive course that requires no prior knowledge, students learn the A to Z of filing taxes with this course. The course covers a range of topics such as various filing status types, personal exemptions, dependency exemptions, reporting income from salaries, interest, and wages, reporting capital gains and losses, retirement income, claiming the standard deduction, making adjustments to income and the like. Like the other courses, this will equip you to be confident while preparing your own taxes, with visual and logical explanations of the Tax Law and its practical applications. This is facilitated with descriptive videos and lectures and is definitely recommended for everyone who wants to fully understand filing requirements, credit options and refunds that are available for claiming, facilitating better tax planning.
Taxes for Small Businesses — Lynda.Com
This intermediate-level course is all about managing and minimizing your tax burden while also maximizing your profits. Designed for business owners and managers, the course enables students to understand tax policies and their impacts on the company and efficient tax planning. It explores the best practices to minimize taxes paid, all within legal limits, it also helps students understand how to use software for tax preparation and planning. Topics such as taxable income, rate reduction, the impact of structure and location on affecting taxes, and planning tools are also covered. The course is taught by financial literacy advocate and GoldBean CEO Jane Barratt.
Link and Learn Taxes — IRS
One of the many tax prep courses the IRS provides, “Link and Learn Taxes” is a self-paced course aimed at people who have volunteered to prepare income taxes for the low-income and elderly people demographics. This free online program consists of 7 certification courses (and some optional specialty courses) and aims to prepare Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) volunteers and partners to be helpful and efficient in filing the taxes of their local community members. This course even counts towards CEU for professionals.
The Best Program For Doing Your Own Taxes
If you're looking to file your taxes on your own the best choice would be Turbo Tax. Turbo Tax is "America's #1 brand of tax software" and offers 4 different plans. The plans include the free edition, deluxe, premier, and self-employed. Each of Turbo Tax's plans cover different needs to make sure every user can complete their taxes appropriately. Turbo Tax makes it easy to file your taxes and maximize your deductions.
The Final Word
With this mix of intermediate, beginner and advanced tax courses that we’ve rounded up for you, tax preparation is sure to seem a lot less overwhelming and daunting. Right from covering the basics to more advanced topics, these courses have it all and cater to a large, diverse range of learners and skill levels. Take one of these courses and prepare taxes like a pro!