How to Prepare for Tax Season: Tips for Doing Your Own Taxes

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By Jordan Martinez

Preparing for tax season can be daunting, however it pays off to understand the basics of taxes and the terms used. Having all the required documents ready to go is a must for accuracy and security. Taking the time to explore options available to you can save time and money down the line.

This Content is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. I am not a financial advisor.

Overview of Tax Preparation and Planning

Tax preparation and planning is an important part of financial management for individuals and businesses. It involves understanding the tax laws of your jurisdiction, analyzing income and expenses, filing returns on time, and making strategic decisions to minimize taxes.

Knowing the deductions and credits available can help reduce taxable income and increase potential refunds. Taking advantage of retirement accounts and capital gains can further reduce taxes owed. Filing estimates during the year can spread out the obligation throughout the year to better balance cash flow.

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Along with federal taxes, you need to be aware of any state or local taxes required in your area. With careful planning, tax preparation can become a manageable process that enhances overall financial success.

Benefits of Preparing Your Own Taxes

Preparing your own taxes can have many advantages. It can save time and money, as well as give you more control over the process. For example, you’ll know exactly where your money is going and be able to make informed decisions about deductions and credits.

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It also allows you to review all of your documents thoroughly, helping to ensure accuracy while preventing costly errors. Additionally, having a working knowledge of tax law gives you the advantage and puts you above the top 30% in terms of knowing tax law, plus it gives you the opportunity to plan ahead for upcoming years and take full advantage of potential tax breaks.

Lastly, preparing your own taxes provides a sense of accomplishment as well as peace of mind knowing that you are in control of this important part of your finances. Once you do it once you’ll have gained the knowledge to do it over and over again and you’ll become the tax guru to your family and friends, which sometimes is not always positive…

Gathering Required Documents

During tax season, you will need to gather a variety of documents in order to prepare and file your tax return. Here are three common types of documents you may need to have on hand:

  1. Wage and income statements: These include documents such as W-2 forms from your employer and 1099 forms for any other income you received, such as freelance work or rental income.
  2. Receipts and records of deductible expenses: If you itemize deductions on your tax return, you will need to have documentation of eligible expenses such as charitable donations, medical expenses, and business-related expenses.
  3. Bank and investment statements: You will need to report any interest, dividends, and capital gains from your bank and investment accounts. Be sure to gather statements from these accounts, as well as any documents related to the sale of assets or property.

Gather Documents Safely and Securely

When gathering documents needed for tax preparation, it’s important to have an organized system. Start by creating a checklist of all the documents you’ll need to compile, such as W-2s, 1099 forms and other records of income or deductions. You should also collect bank statements, investment reports, mortgage and loan documentation.

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When gathering these documents, it might be helpful to set up a digital filing system that keeps them all in one easy-to-access location. This way you can easily access any documents you may need throughout the year or when tax time rolls around again.

Additionally, if possible you may want to print paper copies of certain documents for additional security purposes. In order to make tax season simpler it’s important to keep financial information updated and organized throughout the year so that you don’t have to scramble come April.

Terminology You Should Know

Tax season can be confusing and intimidating, as it comes with its own set of jargon. Understanding some of the common terminology used during this time is crucial to navigating your taxes successfully. A W-2 form reports wages, tips and other compensation from an employer. This information is used in calculating your income tax liability for the year.

You should also be familiar with terms like adjusted gross income (AGI) which is your taxable income after any deductions or credits. It’s important to understand what deductions you qualify for as these can help reduce your taxable income.

Other common terms include Form 1040, which is used for filing federal taxes, as well as estimated taxes and refundable credits. Lastly, familiarizing yourself with common tax brackets can give you an understanding of how much your income will be taxed in a given year. By brushing up on some terminology it may make filing your taxes less nerve-wracking and more manageable.

Where Do I File?

When filing your taxes, it’s important to know all the available options. The most convenient way to file is electronically through IRS Free File, a free tax filing software created by the IRS in partnership with private sector tax software providers. This platform allows you to prepare and e-file your federal taxes for no cost. Additionally, many companies offer online tax preparation services for a small fee that can help make filing simpler and more efficient.

It’s also possible to file paper copies of your documents using mail or at local Service Centers operated by the IRS. Taxpayers living overseas are even allowed to file an extension on their taxes without paying any late fees or penalties if they cannot submit their documents by the deadline. Knowing these different methods of filing may give you more freedom when it comes time to pay taxes so that you can choose which way works best for you and your financial situation.

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