For over a dozen years, we have filed our own taxes. It’s not as hard or intimidating as you might think! I’m excited to show you how we have kept it simple and manageable all these years, even through many changes in our income and family situation.
Flashback to college.
After several years of my parents claiming me, I started to get envious of my friends who got these magical checks called “tax refunds.” Since I was paying for my own schooling, I decided I should cut the tax-strings with my parents and start filing taxes for myself. On the recommendation from a friend, I tried TaxSlayer.com. I’ll admit that as a single, wage-earning college student, my return was already pretty simple, but TaxSlayer made the process a breeze.
As the years went on, my tax situation got a little more interesting. Over the past dozen years, my tax situation has changed by:
Moving across the country twice, filing returns in multiple states each of those years
Adding four little people to our family
Buying a house
Selling a house
Starting multiple businesses
For all of those years, we continued to file online using TaxSlayer, For the first years while we were in school, our income was low enough that the filing was completely free. As our income increased and we no longer qualified for free filing, we’ve been pleased that the cost is still so reasonable. TaxSlayer has always been a straight-forward and affordable way to file our taxes.
Finally, last year, as our financials became more complicated (at least for us) we spoke with a good friend who works as a professional tax preparer to have him look at our most recent TaxSlayer-filed returns, just to make sure we were still ok. We talked about tax minimization strategies, and he noted that he thought we could probably do just as well filing ourselves as having him prepare our returns. Tax filing software has become quite sophisticated, and while it’s not the same experience as just turning your papers over to a CPA, if you’re willing to prepare yourself, you can be successful. You’ll also learn a lot about your finances as you go through the process.
Tips for filing your taxes yourself:
If you’re new at filing your own taxes or could use some tips from seasoned DIY tax-filers, here are some of my best ideas:
Make a list of what you need
Probably the most complicated part of filing your taxes is getting everything together. Seriously! Sometimes waiting for those W-2s to come in the mail can take forever (especially if you’re hoping for an early refund).
Filing your taxes with TaxSlayer is really simple when you have all of the numbers and documents you need. Make a checklist of everything you will need. Here’s a list to get you started:
Personal/Family Info– social security number for you, your spouse, and dependents
Income Info– W-2 forms, 1099 forms, rental income, savings and investing income, other income
Deduction Info– 1098 forms for mortgage interest, charitable donation info, medical expenses, 1095 forms for health insurance, childcare expenses, education expenses, retirement savings info, etc)
Stopping halfway through your return is, of course, possible (TaxSlayer will save your info), but it’s frustrating to have to wait on that W-2 that didn’t get sent out until January 30th. Having a checklist will let you know when you can start your filing without an annoying intermission.
Keep it together!
I don’t know about your house, but sometimes the mail pile at our place gets a little unruly. Don’t let your important tax documents get lost in all the ads and junk mail. You don’t want to send yourself on a treasure hunt for that 1099 that you know came in the mail two weeks ago but has since vanished.
We like to get a clear plastic folder like this to hold all of our paperwork. When the W-2s and 1099s come in the mail, they go straight to the envelope. When your financial accounts send an email letting to say your tax documents are ready, just print them out and stick them in the envelope.
When you sit down to do your taxes, you’ll be so glad to have everything together.
Use your resources and double check!
Just because you’re filing your taxes “on your own” doesn’t mean you’re really on your own. TaxSlayer offers free live phone and email support to all customers. If you come to something you’re not sure about, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.
Your tax software (or accountant, for that matter) is only as good as the information you give it! Take the time to double check all those important numbers, including the easy questions like your social security number! Have your spouse take a look too, so you have a second set of eyes looking for typos. It’s much easier to fix an error now than later!
You can do this!
Filing your taxes doesn’t have to be tricky, even when your situation changes with a marriage, home purchase or becoming a parent. In fact, going through the process on your own helps you be more aware and in control of your finances.
You can do this! File now at TaxSlayer.com!
How about you?
- What are your best tips for filing your taxes on your own?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Free when you subscribe!
Get frugal inspiration and financial motivation in your inbox every week, plus you'll also get the Guide to Getting a Month Ahead Financially for free!