9 ways to get ready to file your taxes
Don’t let tax time intimidate you.
With a little bit of preparation, free expert help and some great Internet resources to simplify the steps, you can get the refund you deserve with minimal stress.
We talked to Lisa Greene-Lewis, a tax expert with TurboTax, for advice on the best ways you can get ready to file your taxes. She offered us nine easy steps anyone can follow to smooth out the process.
1. Organize your documents.
You probably already have begun receiving tax-related documents in the mail. Don’t just throw them in a stack, or worse, let them get lost or thrown away. Greene-Lewis recommends keeping a separate, designated tax file near where you keep your mail and papers. When your W2s, 1099s or other tax documents arrive, immediately put them in that file, so all of your tax information remains in one location.
“It’s pretty unbelievable how many people may have two jobs and leave out a W2 when rushing to get taxes done. It’s best to have everything in one place,” she says.
2. Double-check Social Security numbers.
Surprisingly, one of the top mistakes people make in filing their taxes is gathering the incorrect Social Security numbers for themselves, their dependents and their spouses, according to the IRS. One wrong number, or omitting a Social Security number altogether, can cost you valuable deductions.
3. Revisit 2014.
Walk through the last year, and think about everything you did that could be tax deductible. A lot of the things you do regularly or even every day can be deducted. Did you clean out your closets in the middle of the year and donate the items? Did you send your kids to summer camp? If you were looking for a job, your job search expenses may be deductible. Remember the things you did last year, and get those receipts ready to go.
4. Review last year’s tax return.
Pull out your copy of last year’s tax return and revisit it. This might remind you of other things you can deduct that you may be leaving out.
5. Returning users visit My TurboTax.
Returning TurboTax users have a great advantage: a unified home base, where they can easily review a summary of their tax history and previous information. This can be helpful when preparing this year’s tax returns—and save you a lot of time, too.
6. Pull out your closing statement.
If you bought a home in 2014, find your closing statement. This may have more expenses you can deduct, such as points paid to purchase a home and property taxes on the closing statement.
7. Don’t forget charitable contributions.
TurboTax makes it easy to keep track of your charitable contributions and the value of your donated items. New this season, check out the TurboTax mobile app, ItsDeductible. When you are visiting a charitable organization, its name will pop up on your app. Simply type in the items donated and the information will automatically transfer to your tax return. No extra steps—and adding this information on the spot assures you won’t forget it.
8. Know where you stand.
Take advantage of the TurboTax TaxCaster tool, which allows you to see where you stand with your taxes and return. Enter your information and it will give you an estimate of your tax situation. In this case, you can make a smart tax move, such as contribute more money to your IRA—even at the last minute, all the way up until the tax-filing deadline.
9. Simplify with TurboTax SnapTax.
The SnapTax mobile app makes entering information even easier. Simply snap a picture of your W2 and it will populate the info, ask you a few simple questions and, if you have a simple tax return, you can e-file using SnapTax in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t get much easier than that.