It can be a little daunting to start thinking about taxes but remember that it’s important to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later. You’ve got until April to get your taxes in, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to start filing. The sooner you start thinking about tax season the sooner you can respond should unforeseen conditions arise. After all, you don’t want to get a nasty surprise and not have time to respond to it!
Easy Steps to Get Ready for Tax Season
Choose a Method of Filing
First, you’re going to want to choose a method of filing. Are you going to file your taxes yourself or are you going to use a tax preparer? Generally, we advise that you file your taxes yourself unless they are particularly complex. If you have a very complex tax return that you need to fill out, consider going with an inexpensive tax preparer.
When choosing a tax preparer, make sure they have a PTIN, or Preparer Tax Identification Number. If they do, it means they’re qualified to fill out a federal tax return. Before choosing this person, ask about any fees that they may charge to prepare taxes. The more complex your return, the higher the fee you can expect to pay. However, stay away from anyone who wants a percentage of your return: stick to flat fees only.
If you choose to use a tax preparer, make sure you set up an appointment with them as soon as possible to begin discussing your tax returns. This goes double if you expect a tax refund. The sooner you get the ball rolling on getting your return in, the sooner you can get your money!
Gather Your Files
Get ready to start gathering your personal files. By the end of January your employers should have provided you with various documents relating to your tax returns. Typically these documents are W-2’s, which employers provide to employees and indicate your income from your job. Self-employed individuals get a different form, however, and there are many other types of documents you may receive.
However, whatever your forms of income may be, you should have all of the documents related to your taxes in hand by the end of January. Make sure you carefully file these somewhere you won’t lose track of them! It’s very important to have these on hand while filing your taxes.
Other files you may need to gather could be receipts from various purchases or charitable contributions you made this year. If you think you’ll get a bigger deduction by itemizing, then you should opt to gather your relevant receipts. However, the standard deduction can often be larger than an itemized deduction, so keep that in mind when you set about filing your taxes.
Get Personal Info Together
Make sure you have information like your social security number and the numbers of all dependents you’re claiming this year. If you own any vacation homes or rental properties, make sure you have the documents relating to them together and ready to go in time for tax time. Addresses and deeds will be helpful to have on hand! Additionally, the amount you paid, the amount you’ve made on them if they are rental properties and the dates you purchased them will all be needed.
Get a Copy of Last Year’s Return
You’re going to want a copy of your prior year’s return on hand. If you need information you may have forgotten, you’re going to need the previous year’s return. While the information held within might not be the most critical, it’s still good to have things like charitable donations from last year and payors of interest and dividends on hand to refresh your memory.
Decide What to do With a Refund
If you expect to get a tax refund, be thinking about what you’re going to do with it once you get it. Many people prefer to simply have the funds deposited straight into their checking accounts, and while this is straightforward, it might not be the best plan. Consider saving the money, instead, or applying it to next year’s tax bill!
For instance, you could have the funds allocated to your retirement account or invest it in stocks after it’s deposited into your checking. Whichever route you choose, just keep in mind that the sum you get may be better served being saved than being used to get a new tattoo or game console! Just don’t spend it all in one place.