So here we are again at the start of a new year with all sorts of things to look forward to. The days are getting longer, the bliss of springtime is just around the corner, warmer weather, flowers, baseball, what’s not to love? Well, for some people, the coming of spring also brings with it some additional nerves surrounding a single day— April 15th. But the truth is, Tax Day doesn’t have to be a daunting, looming shadow. In fact, with just a few simple tips, Tax Day can (and should) be just another day!
This won’t hurt a bit
Of course, when the doctor says, “This won’t hurt a bit,” we all know to be prepared for a little pain. But when we say it about your tax returns, we mean it. Look, with just a few simple tips you can get through this with a minimal of screaming, and hey, when we’re done maybe you’ll get a lollipop.
Get it together
The first thing you need to do is to get organized. You’re going to need more than just your W-2 — getting organized is going to mean gathering some information as well as a few documents. Start by amassing all the personal information you’ll need like social security numbers, identification, and addresses for all family members. Having this all together in one place will be especially helpful if you’re using a tax prep service.
Next, be sure to get your W-2 from your employer and 1099 forms for any miscellaneous income gained over the year—this should include interest income from a credit union or bank accounts or other saving accounts that are not specified for retirement, gifts over $14,000 from one person and alimony. If you have kids, you should also gather information on any childcare expenses that were necessary for you or your spouse to go to work, so you can claim those valuable deductions.
Homeowners should gather information on property taxes and interest paid. If you purchased a home or refinanced during the previous year, the cost of obtaining your mortgage might also be deductible. Education expenses, healthcare, and charitable donations may be tax deductible in full or in part, so be sure to gather any relevant numbers and documents in order to get all the credit that’s coming to you.
You can’t stop April 15th from coming, but if you’re prepared and know what resources are available to help, there’s no need to worry. Even the procrastinators among us need not fear as last-minute solutions are available. So, take a deep breath and relax—you’ve got this!
Whether you’re down to the wire or you’re just looking for some help, numerous online resources exist to make getting your taxes finished and filed easy and efficient. One of the best resources we’ve found is MyFreeTaxes, which is available to people earning $64,000 or less. The free service assists with both state and federal returns and is designed to support the health, education, and financial stability of the entire community—which means, among other things, maximizing your refund. MontanaFreeFile.org is also available for people who want to work with an actual person, but also want a free service. For a list of professional CPAs to help with prep and filing, visit mscpa.org/find_a_cpa. And for basic legal questions, Montana Legal Services Association provides free resources at MontanaLawHelp.org.
Finally, if you’ve simply run out of time to get your taxes finished and filed, you can always file for an extension. You can either get forms directly from the IRS or additional information on extensions here. However, keep in mind that an extension on filing your return is NOT an extension on paying any taxes you owe. Be sure to make payments prior to April 18 to avoid any penalties and interest charges.
Wrap it up
Look, we’re all accustomed to dreading Tax Day, but that really doesn’t have to be the case. With a little planning, a little organizing and gathering, and maybe a little help, getting your taxes done and sent can be a breeze. And hey, if you want to come by the credit union and chat, we’ve probably got that lollipop for you.