It is almost tax time, which means it is time to prepare your tax return. If you are new to filing taxes, it is important that you fully understand the process. You do not want to make any errors, as this can cause a delay in your filing and receiving any tax return money you may be expecting. The following steps are helpful to keep in mind as you get ready to file your tax return:
Gather Your Documentation
One of the first steps to filing your taxes is to gather all the necessary forms you will need. If you work for an employer, you should receive a Form W-2. You can obtain this from your human resources department, but many employers will mail it to your home address. If you work more than one job, make sure you have Form W-2s from each one. If you did any work as an independent contractor, you would need Form-1099 from each entity you did work for. You will also receive Form-1099s for any interest and dividend compensation you received. If you have a home on which you pay mortgage interest, you will receive a Form-1098 to write off your interest. If you won significant money gambling, you would receive a Form-W-2G to declare that money as income.
The next documents you need are any receipts you have to itemize your deductions. If you intend to itemize, your receipts serve as proof that you incurred those expenses in the event the IRS wants to check. Most people take the standard deduction instead of an itemized deduction, but if you spent a lot of money on expenses for a business, side hustle, medical expenses not paid for by your insurance plan, or investment expenses, itemizing may yield a better return in the long run. You may not know which deduction is best, so having your receipts ready for your tax preparer will help them determine which option will work out best for you.
Make an Appointment with a Tax Preparer
If you have never filed your taxes yourself or if you find the idea of filing taxes daunting, it is best to have a tax preparer do this for you. Make sure you call ahead and make an appointment, as they will be very busy this time of year. Ask your attorney, a financial advisor, or even a trusted friend for referrals. Any tax preparer you choose should have a preparer tax identification number to prove they have the authority to prepare tax returns. Most all tax preparers will have a fee, so make sure you ask what that will be. Fees typically vary based on how complex your tax return is. The longer it takes the preparer to finalize your return, the higher the fee is likely to be. Some tax preparation professionals will give you the option to pay by giving them a percentage of your tax refund. You may want to avoid this, as the fee can be more than if you just play their flat rate.