10 Essential Tips for Completing Your Taxes
Tax season is officially upon us and, while it may not be the most joyous event of the year, it is one that can’t be avoided. If you’re like me, you attempt to ignore it all together by deferring your tax work to someone else. In my case, I defer to my dad. Others I know rely on a family accountant. While it’s great to get the help, let’s face it, as Single Girls we should have basic knowledge of what it takes to get our taxes done. It’s one of those life lessons like learning to change a tire or clean out a clogged drain that we really ought to know.
We have over one month left before the final filing date descends upon us. So, if you haven’t yet gotten started, don’t fear. There is still plenty of time to learn the process. In fact, we’re here to help you do just that. Read on for 10 tax tips that will help you take ownership of your taxes and hopefully help you get a better refund in the process!
1. Turn to the IRS for Help.
IRS.gov website is your one-stop tax shop. There, you can find every form and instruction sheet you need around the clock. When you arrive to the site head to ‘1040 Central’ to get started. This page shares important tips and information to help you file your federal return. It also has an FAQ and links to different filing options, as well as online tools like the Interactive Tax Assistant.
2. Get Free Assistance.
IRS Free File (found on IRS.gov) is available to anyone is a free means to prepare and electronically file your taxes. If your paychecks came in under $58K last year, you are eligible to use Free File tax software which takes you through the process step by step and allows you to file your return electronically. If you bankrolled higher than $58K, you can still get help from the gov but you’ll be limited to their Free File Fillable forms, electronic versions of the paper forms.
3. Check for an EITC Refund.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is available to you if you made under $51,567 in 2013. The benefit of qualifying for EITC is that it could help you get or improve your refund by reducing the amount you owe in federal tax. If this is you, you could be looking at a tax credit up to $6,044 (though the average last year was $2,335). For help determining if you qualify, head to IRS.gov and check out their EITC Assistant tool.
4. Organize your Documents for Tax Time
Don’t get caught off guard when tax season rolls around. Prepare yourself by creating a folder to collect and keep track of all your important forms as they come in. Make sure to check your mail for documents like your W-2 and don’t forget that some forms will be sent to you electronically. Consider investing in a personal finance software program like Quicken, which will help you stay organized throughout the year.
5. Keep Better Records of Deductibles
As a single you can elect to take the standard deduction ($6,100) or you can itemize your expenses and aim for a higher amount. If you opt for the latter, make sure you have a system to keep track of all of your expenses and receipts that could be considered tax write-offs like donations to charity, medical bills, and personal business costs. Sites like Shoeboxed and Expensify can help you keep organized online records, which will be easy to reference come tax time.
6. Don’t Miss These Deductions:
Speaking of deductions, there are several that can help you get a larger tax return that you’ll not want to overlook such as:
If you started a new job in 2013 there are certain expenses related to your job search that you might be able to deduct including printing and mailing your resume, travel expenses for interviews, and any fees you pay to a job search agency. In order to quality, your new job must be in the same line of work as your old and your expenses must have been higher than 2% of your gross income.
If you had to move 50+ miles for a new job you can deduct your moving expense. Add up these qualifying costs to get to your total:
- Packing materials
- Hiring a moving company
- Truck rental
- Storage of your belongings within 30 days of your move
- Travel expenses for your family
- Mileage, if you drove your car
Did you know that the cost for higher education is a tax write-off? Classes, books, and online courses and webinars to help improve your job skills all count.
7. Get a Tax Break from Your Side Hustle
Remember our post about getting a side hustle? Well it not only can help your wallet by bringing in extra income, it can also help by scoring you a higher tax break. Expenses for starting your business, dining and entertainment cost related to your work, and any advertising expenses can be counted toward a deductible. If you work form home and have an office space exclusively reserved for running your personal business you can also take a home office deduction. The simplest way to calculate this write off is to multiply $5 per square foot of your home office (up to 300 square feet).
8. Find the Right Tax Forms
The IRS website has all of the forms you need for filing your taxes. You can download them directly from the site or choose to have them mailed to you. The website can also direct you to your state’s website where you will find the necessary state forms. To make it even easier on yourself, you might want to purchase a tax software like Turbo Tax which comes preloaded with all of the forms you need and helps you identify which ones you need to file.
9. File Electronically
If you are expecting to receive a tax refund, the fastest way to get it in your bank account is to file your forms electronically. The IRS will process these before paper forms and as a result, you’ll see your check about 3-6 weeks earlier. If you elect for direct deposit of your check instead of in the mail, you ‘ll receive it even faster.
10. Mark April 15 on your Calendar
Last but not least, make sure you get everything completed and postmarked or e-filed by midnight April 15 to avoid an penalties for late filing.
Best of luck!
Do you do your own taxes? Share with us any helpful tips you’ve picked up along the way!