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Tax time can be, well, taxing. Not only is there a lot of paperwork to sort through, but not understanding how to work the system (or messing up your return) can cost you. And with all the changes and updates to the tax code every year, it’s important to school yourself on tax-related topics to ensure that you’re prepared this tax season.
From single filers and heads of households to business owners and self-employed people, tax preparation books can help every tax filer maximize their return. These books will help you take advantage of tax credits, list the various deductions you may qualify for, teach you how to survive an audit, and break down other rules. Here are the best tax preparation books.
Best Overall: How to Pay Zero Taxes
"How to Pay Zero Taxes" promises a lot but the premise is simple: Armed with the right information, tax time can be less of a hassle, and you can save money like never before. Tax expert Jeff Schnepper’s captivating guide will lead you gently through complex information without feeling mentally or financially taxed. And you'll find salient advice on everything from calculating child and elder care costs, how to maximize your business deductions and how to survive an audit if you’re one of the unlucky few the IRS chooses to inspect carefully.
Although he’s been writing this series for over 30 years, the updated edition of Schnepper’s book covers all of the latest additions to the tax code and includes hundreds of easy tips to save you money. This critical volume has a lot to offer professionals and personal filers alike.
Related: The Best Accounting Books
Best for Basics: J.K. Lasser's 1001 Deductions and Tax Breaks
This book is an excellent place to start if you don’t know the first thing about taxes. This isn't a mere laundry list of what you are eligible to deduct—it also teaches you how the law has recently evolved, which types of income are never taxed, how to claim things correctly, and how to read your financial records as a seasoned accountant would.
Arm yourself with your W-2 filings and any other sources of income before you crack open this book then start saving money at the turn of each page. Newly updated to cover recent changes to the tax law, "1001 Deductions" also features an online supplement that provides up to date information on the newest legal developments in the tax code, covering every possible situation.
Best Short Read: Taxes Made Simple
This one's for you if you know a little bit more than absolutely nothing about taxes but not much more. You'll learn all of the things you should have picked up in personal finance class had you been paying attention from the difference between basic essential terms to how to make sure you qualify for the deductions and credits that will save you in the long run.
You'll also gain a better understanding of which tax forms you're required to fill out based on your occupation and personal details, as well as laws specific to your state. You'll be prepared for doing your simple taxes—or for interviewing a potential accountant to make sure you're getting what you’re paying for.
Best for Retirees: Get What's Yours
If you or a loved one are nearing retirement age, you're going to want to get your hands on this book. The U.S. Social Security system is incredibly complicated and has nearly 3,000 rules governing who's eligible for what and when.
Wrong decisions about what to apply for and when you apply could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars...every year. Using these stories of those people and lessons gleaned from decades of financial planning will help you navigate the complexities and help you get the highest possible payout. You'll learn strategies and tips from the pros, written in a style that even those whose minds aren’t as sharp anymore will be able to understand.
Related: The Best Investing Books
Best for Vacation Home Owners: Saving the Family Cottage
A family vacation home can be a taxation nightmare. Things can get very complicated very quickly when you inherit a property in which multiple parties have a stake even if everyone gets along just fine.
You can avoid future squabbles between your children or other inheritors with a little proper planning. "Saving the Family Cottage" will teach real estate owners how to create a proper legal mechanism to protect family property for every generation to come while staving off countless headaches to boot. You'll find information on how to keep possession of your home if creditors or greedy relatives you haven't heard from in years suddenly think they're owed a cut. How to transition from one generation’s ownership to another, how to keep one party from selling the home unilaterally and, most importantly, how to maintain calm in the family are all covered.
This book also includes helpful information for those who are—or would like to be—renting out their property full or part time.
Best for Self-Employed People: 475 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals
You might be paying more in taxes than you need to if you work for yourself. You're essentially leaving money on the table if you don’t properly understand the deductions you’re entitled to. Written by a pro with over 30 years of experience, this book is an essential tool that people who work for themselves will want to put to good use.
"475 Tax Deductions for Businesses" doesn’t just tell you the deductions you should be taking such as for your website and any lost revenue. It also shows you exactly where to put the information when it’s time to file. There’s also a special section on how to deduct costs associated with working from home.
Best End of Life Planning: 8 Ways to Avoid Probate
If you're nearing the end of your life, facing a health scare, or building a family, you might be more worried about living life to the fullest than concerned with what will happen to your money after you pass from this world. Unfortunately, failing to plan for your death could have a severe financial impact on your family and even land them in probate court where they could sink thousands of dollars into unnecessary legal proceedings.
"8 Ways to Avoid Probate" can save you and your family all that hassle by providing useful and easy strategies like naming your payable-on-death beneficiaries for your retirement and savings plans and using a living trust. This edition offers a complete overview of federal and state law no matter where you or your family reside.
Related: The Best Personal Finance Books
Best for Experts: U.S. Master Tax Guide
You can skip this recommendation if you're a home filer unless you’re looking for a good bedtime story. Tax pros, on the other hand, will find this book an invaluable resource.
It’s meticulously researched and provides the most up-to-date and legally sound insider explanation of the U.S. tax code. You’ll find yourself consulting this reference again and again if you’re preparing a complicated filing. Even if you’re a CPA, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a question that this book doesn’t answer.
This book provides straightforward albeit detailed answers. It's one you must buy if you want to know the tax code forward and backward.
The latest edition of Jeff Schnepper’s “How to Pay Zero Taxes” (view on Amazon) is a must-read for anyone hoping to crack the tax code. With tons of money-saving tips and easy-to-digest language on complex topics, even the most knowledgeable tax pros are bound to learn a few new tricks. And since so many people today are gig economy workers or freelancers, the "475 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals” (view on Amazon) is another one to add to your reading list if applicable.