You’re a college graduate. You have letters behind your name for crying out loud! Filing your taxes will be a breeze! Then you sit down with a stack of receipts, W2s, W9s, a tax booklet and a few varieties of the 1040. You graduated with honors, so filling out a few forms for the IRS will be nothing compared to the thesis you spent months working on. Four hours later you are twitching on the floor in the fetal position with drool coming down your chin as you chant “adjusted gross income … dependent status … taxable interest”.
It doesn’t have to end this way. Technology has saved us all from hours of hair pulling, handwritten long form. If this is your first time doing your own taxes then this is the article for you. The IRS realized a few years ago that life would be much simpler for them if they didn’t have to decipher papers that were covered in scribbled numbers and dried tears. There are so many options for doing your taxes now that anyone can do it!
Yes, you can hand write and snail mail in your taxes. However, you have more options than that. Do some research and ask around. Find out who trusted providers are. You can walk into an office and walk out with a loaded debit card. Or, an even simpler method is to do it on your own. The IRS website lists multiple options that they approve as tax preparers. The great thing is that you can even have your taxes done for free if your income is low enough.
Filing your taxes online is as simple as answering a few basic questions. Keep in mind that the software providers are competing to make theirs the simplest one to use. That means that as a consumer, you are guaranteed to find tax filing software that literally walks you through the entire process. You simply answer the step by step questions.
This software is so simple to use that there are answers to your questions about their questions! All you do is click on the information button if you need clarification about things like what it takes to not be a dependant or to find your township code. It really can’t get much simpler. And best of all, once your taxes are done, most of the software goes through and checks for possible mistakes. Isn’t it nice to know that as friendly as you are, someone else is going out of their way so you don’t have to have the IRS over for dinner? It doesn’t get any better than that!
If you can manage some basic data entry, then just relax. Get your information together. If you didn’t own your own business then all you really need is your W2s and receipts for the year. Don’t worry about whether or not you can deduct specific items. The tax software will offer you the option of getting a list of items that are deductible.
If you really must have answers to questions before opening the software, then we can go through a brief checklist that may clear things up a bit for you. We’ll keep it simple since you might still be twitching if you’re one of those unfortunates who went and loaded up on paperwork at the library and then attempted to figure it all out on your own.
Let’s start with the basics.
You cannot be claimed as a dependent if you have supported yourself at your own address for more than six months out of the year. Your family dog is not a dependent. Your child who lives with you for more than six months of the year and receives more than half their support from you can be claimed as a dependent.
It’s okay if you’re horrible at math because if you use the online software, all you’re going to do is put in the information. The software will do the figuring for you, so put your socks back on!
Yes, it is possible to get back more in taxes than you paid in. This is not a mathematical error and it is not setting you up for an audit followed by prison time. It simply means that you didn’t make enough money to owe the IRS anything and you probably qualified for the earned income credit.
The hot tub you put in last spring is not deductible, but the home office you use for your own business or use for your job before or after you go to work each day is. On the other hand, yes you can deduct that leather jacket you took to Goodwill under the charities deduction, just as long as Goodwill gave you a receipt for estimated value.
Unfortunately, that engagement ring your ex-fiancé threw out the window is not a legal deduction, but the therapy you went to for six months afterwards may be.
These are all questions that can be answered as you fill out your tax forms. Take the pain out of doing taxes and just use the online tax software. Not only will you ensure that your taxes are filed accurately and in an inexpensive manner, but you can save yourself tons by avoiding the therapy that is likely to follow preparing your taxes using the paper form and the pile of booklets that come with it!