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This may be your first year filing your own taxes or maybe you have been doing it for awhile now. Regardless, I hope that tax season does not induce large amounts of stress for you. It really does not need to be that difficult. The keys to success when filing your taxes yourself are staying organized, starting early, and using a tax software! I have been using TurboTax online since the first year I started filing my own taxes and I have always found the process easy and even fun (mostly because I am a numbers nerd).
TurboTax walks you through the process step-by-step and has a great library of knowledge with answers to common questions that you may have. If you are filing taxes for yourself or your family and feel confident that you have a fairly uncomplicated tax situation (TurboTax will ask you about this as well) then I highly recommend checking it out. They have lots of different options to choose from depending on your situation. There are a few things you need to do before attempting to file your taxes.
What do you need to file your taxes?
To get started with the bare minimum, you need any and all W-2 statements and social security numbers for you and/or your spouse. The W-2 forms are due to you by January 31st, but many times employers make them available earlier, especially if you opt to receive them electronically.
Depending on your situation, some other common items you will need are:
- student loan interest statements
- mortgage interest statements
- education expense records (such as paying tuition)
- charitable donation receipts or amounts
- medical and dental expense record
- child care expenses
- investment related records
These are just a few of the items you may or may not need to file your taxes. Many of these forms will be mailed to your home address or will be accessible online. It is helpful to have login information for your accounts online if you want to get started before receiving these forms in the mail. Plus, if you have been tracking your expenses, it should be easy to pull up any expenses related to education, medical, or child care.
Remember, there are many other situations that may require additional items or forms from you, such as alimony, child support, unemployment, the sale of property, owning a small business, etc. TurboTax does a great job of asking you about common and uncommon situations and offering advice for each of them.
Stay Organized for Taxes
Especially if you are someone with a more complicated tax situation, make sure you keep track of any paper documents that will be needed come tax time. The easiest thing to do is have a file folder somewhere in your home office or filing cabinet where you can shove any paper that relates to taxes throughout the year. Some examples would be paid medical bills, personal property taxes, receipts from donations, etc.
When you finally sit down to do your taxes, it feels absolutely amazing to have everything you need right in the same location. This cuts down your time spent filing your taxes drastically. Plus, once you start receiving those tax statements in January, you already have a place to stash them until you are ready to deal with them.
File Your Taxes Early
With most things in life, I am a huge procrastinator. I like to think that I work best under pressure. When it comes to taxes, though, I am a huge nerd and love getting them done as early as possible. As in, I usually file ours by February 1st, if not earlier.
The first perk of getting your taxes filed early is that if you are getting a refund, you get your money faster. This is obviously the best reason to file early.
The second “perk” of starting the process early is knowing way before taxes are due if you are going to owe money. This gives you time to figure out how you are going to pay your tax bill.
One year we owed almost $3,000 in taxes. Needless to say, we did not have that sitting around. Luckily, I had figured this out in late January/early February and was able to figure out how we would pay for it with our budget by the time April arrived.
Starting the filing process early also gives you plenty of time to get yourself organized if you are not already and walk through the process slowly if it is your first time. TurboTax makes it easy for you to do your taxes in pieces by letting you save your progress and pick up exactly where you left off when you come back.
Use TurboTax to File Your Taxes
Once you are ready to go and have organized all your tax documents, it is time to get set up with TurboTax.
This year, if you file by February 19th, you can get 20% off the cost to file AND 7.5% cash back through Ebates. Just create an account by clicking the link and search for TurboTax.
TurboTax will walk you though all of the steps and scenarios you might need to go through to successfully file your taxes. There is a library of helpful information that has answers to a lot of your questions and there are also TurboTax representatives available live to help you through chat and even video chat.
While TurboTax does cost money to file, at the end of the day you will be paying less than what you would have if you had hired a professional AND TurboTax guarantees you the biggest refund.
I cannot stress enough how easy I have found TurboTax to use over the years. Once you get started, you will complete the steps one by one and before you know it, you will be ready to file!
I hope that I have helped ease your mind with filing your own taxes. I promise, it really will not be that bad as long as you go into it prepared and confident.
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