It's almost that time of year- you're about to get inundated with seemingly unimportant pieces of mail that actually turn out to be tax forms. BOO.
Here are my tax time tips and tricks...
1. First things first: your taxes must be filed by Tuesday, April 15, 2014. (edited to add: This deadline is only for your FEDERAL taxes. Each state has it's own STATE filing deadline. Google your state to find out! Is it sad that I never knew in all my 25 years on this planet that there were two different deadlines?! Thank you Mom for teaching me today, haha!)
2. Don't throw anything away for the next few weeks! This is prime tax form season. If you get a piece of mail that even mentions the word "taxes", keep it in a pile somewhere safe until you do your taxes and can decide if it's important or not.
You're going to receive forms like:
- W-2 from any employers
- 1099-INT for any interest your accrue
- 1099-DIV for any dividends you are paid
- 1099-B for brokerage trades in stocks and bonds
- 1098-E for interest paid on student loans
- 1098 for interest paid on mortgage
(Sometimes you might have to print your own forms... I remember two of my banks last year sent me an email telling me to log on to print my 1099-INT)
You'll also need to prepare/gather some other forms if these situations apply to you:
- 1099-MISC for self-employment income
- any documentation showing deductions like charitable contributions, medical expenses if you're planning to do itemized deductions
- IRA contributions (we already discovered that I know zero about IRAs but I think you might need some other paperwork on those when you file your taxes?)
3. Try to do your taxes for free. It's usually pretty easy to find a free federal filing but slightly harder to find a free state filing. Google "[your state name] + free tax filing" and see what comes back. For example, HR block in VA lets you file federal and state for free if your adjusted gross income is less than $57,000 and you are under age 52. Sometimes your bank may offer free filing services, too, so check there!
If you like keeping it old school and want to do your taxes yourself, you can use some of the fillable forms on the IRS website, or you can swing by your local library and they will probably have paper copies of all the forms.
NOTE: I'm definitely not even close to being a tax professional so I'm not going to attempt to tell you which form to use when you file. There are all sorts of tax forms for every situation you can be in. When you use an online service, they'll take you through a series of questions that will decide which form to use. If you're doing them yourself, be sure to go to the IRS website and verify that you know what form to use.
4. If you're getting a refund, choose the direct deposit option. You'll get it soooo much faster than if they mail you a check!
5. After you do your taxes, KEEP EVERYTHING! Just go to target and invest in a few folders or something. Seriously, for the love of pete, keep your tax stuff. I know, you hate paperwork and clutter, blah blah blah. You're going to be wishing you kept stuff when you randomly get selected for an audit. You don't want to hear me say "I told ya so!"
Print off the tax return form(s) that you submit and then keep those forms and all your supporting documentation for at least 3 years from tax day.
(Or scan and store the forms electronically in a place that you know won't lose your documents... maybe multiple places just to be safe? I like putting things on both my external hard drive and in a service like DropBox)
So. There's my quick rundown of tax season. It doesn't have to be hard or stressful, and you hopefully can do everything for free!
(PS-- big shout out to Mama J for giving me the idea for this post! You're the best, Mom :) )