BOOK REVIEW: ‘J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2013’: Yes, You Can (Do Your Own Taxes!)

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax 2013': Yes, You Can (Do Your Own Taxes!)

It’s that time again…income tax time. While many taxpayers would no more do their own taxes than they would try to fix an ailing automobile, many others believe if they’re smart enough to earn their income, they’re smart enough to do an individual federal return.


I’m with the latter group. Consider it a challenge: You against federal bureaucrats who speak a different language. When it comes to income tax preparation books for non-accountants or tax preparers, it’s hard to beat “J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2013 for Preparing Your 2012 Tax Return” (Prepared by J.K. Lasser Institute, Published by John Wiley & Sons, 784 pages $22.95). As a civilian (an English major, even, who’s done his own taxes for decades and is not incarcerated!) this is the book I recommend, along with the one you can pick up at the post office along with the required forms.

The 2012 year-end tax season is slated to have an unparalleled number of tax law changes. With the Presidential election behind them, the White House and Congress will determine whether to move forward with implementing a deficit reduction plan that will end tax breaks for the wealthy. Available now with updates on expired and expiring tax law provisions, is America’s number one bestselling tax guide, J.K. Lasser’s “Your Income Tax 2013: For Preparing your 2012 Tax Return”.


This reliable reference, written by a team of tax specialists includes filing tips to help preparers plan and file their 2012 tax return in the most efficient way possible. It covers some of the most important topics associated with taxes, such as what to report as income; how preparers can save on taxes as well as what deductions they can claim. The updated guidebook includes a new chapter on business succession planning as well as:

> New mileage rates for business driving and standard rates for business travel costs
> New limits for health savings account contributions
> New limits for retirement plan contributions
> Updated information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Taxpayers can gain direct access to supplement materials through, including links to the latest tax forms from the IRS, up-to-the-minute tax law changes, small business help, and much more. For additional information please follow us on Twitter: @JKLasser and on Facebook: and look for tax tips on

While it will never impress anyone who loves the prose of Steinbeck or Hemingway, the language in this book is straightforward, and as jargon-free as possible. Here’s a sample, explaining the important subject of filing status:
The filing status you use when you file your return determines the tax rates that will apply (1.2) to your taxable income. Filing status also determines the standard deduction you may claim (13.1) if you do not itemize deductions and your ability to claim certain other deductions, credits, and exclusions.

This chapter explains the five different filing statuses: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow(er). If you are married, filing a joint return is generally advantageous, but there are exceptions discussed in 1.3. If you are unmarried and are supporting a child who lives with you, you may qualify as a head of household (1.12), which will enable you to use more favorable tax rates than those allowed for single taxpayers. If you were widowed in either 2011 or 2010 and in 2012 a dependent child lived with you, you may be able to file as a qualifying widow(er) for 2012, which allows you to use joint return rates (1.11).

Special filing situations, such as for children, nonresident aliens, and deceased individuals, are also discussed in this chapter.

Your personal or family status also determines the number of personal exemptions you may claim on your return. For 2012, each personal exemption you claim is the equivalent of a $3,800 deduction (21.1).


J.K. Lasser Institute has been the premier publisher of consumer tax guides since 1939, when Jacob Kay Lasser first published Your Income Tax. Since then, the guide has been published continuously for over seventy years and read by over 39,000,000 people. The J.K. Lasser Institute also publishes several personal finance books, including Small Business Taxes, Home Owner’s Tax Breaks, 1001 Deductions and Tax Breaks, Year-Round Tax Planning, and more. J.K. Lasser Institute spokespeople are regularly sought after as media tax experts. They regularly appear on such broadcast programs as CNBC, CNN, and Bloomberg TV. They are also often featured in numerous periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Self Magazine, The New York Times, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest.


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