April 15 is fast approaching, but the looming deadline to file your tax return doesn’t have to be a source of stress. Here are a few ways you can ensure a smoother filing process for this year’s tax return.
1. Take inventory of all your documents.
Before you can get started on your taxes, you need to be sure you have all your important documents handy. These include forms that show your annual wages and income, like W-2 and 1099-MISC forms.
You’ll also need any documents that show social security or unemployment payments you received, or interest you earned on investments. If you run a business, you’ll also need your receipts for business expenses.
These are just a few of the possible documents you may need—if you own a home or pay interest on student loans, for example, you’ll need additional documentation. Check this list from the IRS for a full listing of the documents you may need.
2. See if you qualify for free tax prep tools.
You don’t necessarily need to hire an accountant or purchase software to file your taxes. Using IRS Free File, you can locate free tools that help make the process of filing your federal tax return a little bit easier.
If you earn less than $69,000 a year, IRS Free File can connect you to free software that helps you find tax breaks and fill out forms—some of this software can also provide free state tax returns.
If you earn more than $69,000, you can use the IRS’s forms to file your federal return online for free (although the IRS suggests only going this route if you have some prior experience filing taxes).
3. Set yourself up for success next year.
If this year’s tax return was a headache, learn from the process and start planning now for next year.
There’s no time like the present to clean up your record-keeping. If your taxes were more complicated than you expected this year, you may want to consider hiring a professional to handle your taxes next year.
By taking steps now to keep your tax information organized, you’ll be ready to dive into next year’s return with confidence.
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