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Tax advice from a computer: Do you need tax software? Five questions to ask.

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Jake Barnett does calculation on a physics problem while studying for his college finals, on March 9, 2011 at his home in Noblesville, Ind. When filing taxes, a calculator is certainly helpful, but tax software tends to catch the most errors.

Kelly Wilkinson / AP / File

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2. How good is your math?

The IRS won’t come out and encourage people to use tax software, but a spokesman says that the error rate on electronically filed returns is far lower than paper returns. Maybe your math is shaky or your handwriting is illegible. In either case, filing electronically can smooth over some problems, whether you use software or just fill out and electronic form.

“Tax software tends to catch a lot of errors,” Dean Patterson, the spokesman, says.

“The IRS really does not take a position on products in the private sector,” Mr. Patterson says, but, “We urge [taxpayers] to file an accurate return.”

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