10 Tips to Help You Do Your Taxes
The annual tax deadline is approaching. April 15 will be here before we know it. Some will be ready, taxes prepared and mailed. But others will have continued to procrastinate, to put off doing those unpleasant and unwanted tasks such as gathering up paperwork, organizing information and getting out the pencils, the calculator and planning out hours to actually do the work. You are not alone. Millions of Americans wait until the last minute to file their taxes.
To help get you started, the following are ten tips to making filing your taxes a little easier:
Gather up the information you will need. You may need things like:
• W2s from your employers
• 1099s from any self-employment income you received
• 1099-INT and 1099-DIV for any interest or dividend income you received
• 1099-SSA from Social Security Income you received
• Documentation from any other income you received, including tax forms from income received from partnerships, small businesses or trusts
Deduction and Expense Documentation
• Documentation of contributions to IRAs, medical savings accounts, and college savings accounts
• Receipts for expenses, including college expenses, moving expenses, medical and dental expenses, real estate taxes, charitable contributions and childcare costs
• 1098 (Mortgage interest) and 1098E (student loan interest)
• Cancelled Checks or Checking Account Statements
• Items to Substantiate Deductions
Begin by putting all of this information in one place. That way, when you are ready to sit down and complete your taxes, you already have everything you need.
Review Medical Deductions for ADHD Related Expenses
If you itemize your deductions, check over the many different types of things you can deduct for medical expenses related to your ADHD. For example, you can deduct transportation costs if you attended a conference or transportation costs to and from your doctor. A list of the most common medical expenses relating to ADHD is listed in Medical Deductions for ADHD Related Expenses.
Decide How You Will Complete Your Taxes
There are a number of ways you can complete your taxes. You can do it the old fashioned way and complete forms manually, with pencils, paper and a calculator.
You can purchase software, such as TurboTax or TaxCut. These programs make the task of completing your taxes much easier. There are deduction calculators to help you decide if it is better to itemize or choose the standard deduction. The programs will do all the math calculations for you. The programs also include all the different forms that you may need, so you won't get partially through and realize you need to run to the library or post office to pick up another form. In my experience, using one of these programs pays for itself in the time and aggravation saved.
Remember, if you choose to use one of these programs and e-file once you are done, you will need a copy of last year's taxes to use a number on a certain line of your taxes to stand as your electronic signature. If you can't locate a copy, you will need to mail your signature after you have electronically submitted your taxes.
If you are expecting a refund, filing electronically you should receive your refund quicker than when filing by mail.
Check Your Filing Status
You may receive better tax benefits based on your filing status. Normally, filing a joint return with your spouse will give you a lower tax rate. A single parent may be able to file as "head of household" rather than filing as "single" which would provide a tax break. Making sure you are filing with the right status can save you money on your taxes.
Decide if You Will Itemize Deductions or Use the Standardized Deduction
Depending on how many deductions you have, it may be worth itemizing each deduction or it may be more beneficial to simply take the standardized deduction. Programs such as TurboTax or TaxCut will help you figure out which is best. If you are doing your taxes manually, you will need to make a list of each deduction and add up to see if it is more or less than the standard deduction you are allowed.
Create a Schedule
Okay, so you don't want to do your taxes and you keep putting off the chore. Add time directly to your schedule. Plan on an hour or two each week. The first couple of blocked times can be used to gather materials and documentation. Once that is completed, you can schedule to begin working directly on your taxes. If time is built into your schedule, rather than vaguely committing to one or two hours per week, when you have time, you will be more apt to start completing your taxes.
Use Accurate Numbers, Don't Use Round Numbers
Although it is tempting to round numbers to the nearest whole number, this is often a red flag to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and can increase your chances of being audited. For example, if you are writing down how much you have contributed to a charitable organization based on donations, don't estimate how much each item is worth based on a round number. Use accurate numbers. (Tax software will show you an estimated value based on your donation.)
Sign Your Return
If you are mailing your return to the IRS, make sure you sign it before you mail it. If you are filing jointly with your spouse, make sure both people sign the form. If you filed electronically and must mail your signatures, make sure you mail the form. Although this seems obvious, the IRS reports unsigned returns are a common problem.
Copy Your Return Before Mailing
If you are filing electronically, this is done automatically, but you still might want to make an extra copy and keep on a flash drive or print out a copy of your return to keep in a safe place. You are required to keep tax records for at least six years. If you are mailing your return, make a copy before mailing it off to the IRS. You can request a copy from the IRS however this may take weeks to receive and may cost you money.
Consider Using a Tax Professional
If completing your taxes stresses you out to the point of inability to get them filed on time or are complicated and beyond your ability or you just don't want to do them, consider having a professional complete your taxes. Simple tax returns can be done by a tax service relatively inexpensively and more complicated returns may cost a little more but the savings in time, in aggravation and stress and in either reducing the amount of tax due or receiving a bigger refund, may be well worth the money you spend to have someone else do your taxes.
For more information on filing your taxes, be sure to visit IRS.gov for the most complete information.
This article is part of a series on taxes here on the ADHD page. To view the rest of the series, see below: