“This may be the last straw for some of the more of 20 million Americans who still file their returns manually,” said David Bergstein, an analyst with the online tax preparation program CCH Complete Tax. For do-it-yourself tax filers, software options are plentiful, both as desktop or Web-based. For ease of use and helpful features, I continue to prefer market leader TurboTax (www.turbotax.com), which this year offers three products beyond the Basic program (Deluxe, Premier, and Home & Business). All three include a deduction maximizer. Premier and Home & Business allow users to find online the tax basis of securities they’ve sold, a number that can be maddeningly difficult to obtain in stock splits and spin-offs. Home & Business, the version Georgina and I use as freelance writers, is designed for filers of Schedule C and customizes the questionnaire based on your line of work. I can also recommend other programs, including TaxCut (www.taxcut.com), TaxACT (www.taxact.com) and CCH Complete Tax (www.completetax.com). If you insist on doing your return by hand, make sure you know the rules, or it may cost you. The reason: After the Internal Revenue Service printed this year’s paper forms, Congress retroactively extended some tax deductions that had expired, including popular deductions for sales taxes and for certain teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses. For example, to claim the deduction for sales taxes (you can deduct either sales taxes or state income taxes, not both) you need to enter the letters ST on line 5 of Schedule A. For more explanations, you can go to the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov. Or you can simply give up and use tax-preparation software. Humberto Cruz can be reached at [email protected] or c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Buffalo, NY 14207. Personal replies are not possible.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I found I didn’t get tired or stressed and still got an overall picture of our tax situation. I confess it took me a day to realize that the last piece of information I entered was the last one that was needed, and I was done. We won’t actually file our return until close to this year’s April 17 deadline, however, just in case we get a corrected 1099 or other tax form that would require us to amend the return. Because of the complexity of figuring out which dividends qualify for preferred rates, many brokerage and mutual fund firms have made errors they have had to correct in the 1099 forms they send to taxpayers. Waiting to file can be a good idea, many financial planners say. This same tax complexity is another argument for hiring a professional or using tax-preparation software, particularly this year when the paper forms do not even reflect the latest changes in our ever-changing tax laws. Before I realized it, I was done filling out our 2006 income tax return. Rather than tackle the whole thing at once, I did it bit by bit, entering the information as I received it (for example, how much my wife, Georgina, and I made in dividends from our mutual funds, and how much of it qualified for a preferred tax rate). By using tax-preparation software, I could work on any part of the return I chose without getting confused. The program makes all the computations and adjusts any previous entries based on new information. This ability to work on your return, stop and come back to it has been an attractive feature of tax-preparation software for years. I had rarely used it, preferring to gather all our tax documents and do everything at once from beginning to end. This year I decided to try the stop-and-come-back approach.