The know-it-all and the $127 tax I.D. number. (hint: it’s supposed to be free).

This is what can happen when you try to do it yourself. Mark was reviewing the inheritance tax return of a longtime client. There was a charge for a tax I.D. number: $127. He asked the client what that was about, pointing out that tax I.D. numbers are free. The client insisted that the I.R.S. website indicated that charge, he had paid it, it was legitimate, and would not be persuaded that he'd been bilked by an unscrupulous someone (a site that looks like the I.R.S. or mentions the I.R.S.).

And it's not always just about $127. You might pay too much for probate fees by declaring items that pass outside the will. You might fail to deduct all deductible expenses. Above all, you might value your time at nothing only to find it takes hours and hours just figuring out what needs to be done.

There are numberless websites out there offering to help you. Anybody can put up a website. They can even make it sound like they're connected with the U.S. Government. Let the surfer beware.

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