Tax Filing Tips for Beginners

Written by Mary Lou Boles, Programs Assistant

Tax Beginners Blog 1.27.16

Nothing says “adulthood” like filing your own taxes. But don’t let that thought intimidate you: doing your taxes doesn’t need to be a daunting task. By following these tips and tactics, rookie taxpayers can save time and money this tax season.

Collect and organize your tax documents. Though tedious, organizing all the paperwork that you’ll need is essential. People who are new to filing their taxes generally just need to keep track of their W-2 forms – the document that reports an employee’s annual wages and the amount of taxes withheld from their paycheck- and maybe the 1098-E form that shows the interest paid on student loans throughout the year. The amount of tax documents you need may increase as you financially mature. Keep all of your tax documents in one place and make a folder for each tax year.

Educate Yourself. There are a lot of fancy terms associated with taxes such as exemptions, credits and deductions, to name a few. It’s important to educate yourself on these terms and find out what they mean. You wouldn’t go out and buy a new laptop without researching the customer reviews, right? Likewise, it’s smart to do a little research on your tax situation to ensure that you receive a proper refund. Check out TurboTax’s Tax Term Glossary to define any unknown terms that you come across.

Decide how you want to file. Now that you’re organized and understand all your tax documents, it’s time to decide how you want to file. Many tax payers decide to file their taxes online through H&R Block or TurboTax. Online tax filing software like these are generally free and easy to use if you’re filing simple tax return forms such as the 1040EZ or 1040A. Utilize helpful articles by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) like this one to determine which form you should use if you’re unsure. Inexperienced tax preparers may be more comfortable filing in person, either from a certified tax preparer or a franchise tax office. Make sure you take the time to find a reputable tax preparer because inexperienced taxpayers are often easy targets for con artists. Protect yourself from scams by avoiding tax preparers that base their fees on how large your refund will be.  Visit BBB’s Accredited Business Directory to find accredited tax preparers.

Don’t Procrastinate. The tax submission deadline this year is April 18, 2016. Make sure you file your taxes in a timely manner. The earlier you file, the sooner you’ll get your tax refund. If you end up needing more time to file your taxes past the submission date then you must file Form 4868, which is the application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You can find this form and more information regarding tax filing extensions here.

Good luck filing your taxes! Remember, bbb.org is always a good resource!

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2 thoughts on “Tax Filing Tips for Beginners

  1. I always try to file my taxes early every year. It is just easier to get it out of the way so that I don’t have to think about it. Anyway, my biggest problem is going through all of my paperwork to make sure I don’t miss anything when filing taxes. What is the best way to organize my tax documents so this doesn’t take so long? Just putting everything in one folder just makes a big mess. I’m thinking that I should have a folder for important tax documents and one for the could be important documents.

    1. Hi James, we recommend utilizing a binder or accordion file to separate different tax documents. A Bowl Full of Lemons has a wonderful article on creating an organized system to maintain your tax documents that you can check out here.

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