6 Tips to Make Filing Your Taxes Easier + 1040.com Giveaway

  • Copy by: Erica Gellerman
  • Feature Image By: Homey Oh My

Spring is just around the corner which means blooming peonies, crisp spring hair, and…our taxes are due. Filing taxes is the one last thing we have to do before 2015 is 100% behind us. While this might make most of us cringe, it doesn’t have to be the case. We’ve partnered up with 1040.com for tips on how to make filing your taxes easier this year and in the years to come.

1040.com is a DIY return filing application that works to make filing fast and simple. It walks you through easy questions to make sure you’re getting all the tax breaks available to you. And they pull data from your prior year return, so filing with them can be easy! They also store a copy of your return just in case you need the information later. So not only do they make actually filing your return simple, they also provide easy to understand, basic information that’s good for everyone who pays taxes to know. And what we really love: For every tax return filed with 1040.com, they will donate $2 to Healing Waters International!

1. Start early and file on time.

It’s March already. I know. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t start early and avoid being one of those people sweating the deadline. The official, annual deadline for individuals filing a 1040 (individual income tax return) is April 15th, unless that day falls on a weekend or holiday. This year, the federal income tax deadline is April 18th. Most states have an income tax filing deadline on April 18th or just after.

There are many good reasons for not being a last minute filer, but one big reason is to lower your chances of identity theft. Each year there are billions of dollars in refunds claimed by sneaky thefts—they steal your personal data and file falsified tax returns to nab a fraudulent tax refund. Once they’ve filed with your social security number, it can take up to a year to sort it out with the IRS. The easiest way to deter this fraud? You guessed it: File early.

Starting now—and really I mean now—can help you not only avoid undue stress and lower your chances of identity theft, but means you can also take the time to make sure you don’t miss anything. And as a bonus: if you are due a refund, you’ll get to enjoy that money sooner. If you do end up owing money, it’s better to know it sooner rather than later, so you can plan for how to make the payment.

2. Know your tax credit and deduction basics.

No one has ever accused the U.S. tax code of being simple, but don’t use that complexity as an excuse to not learn some of the basic tax breaks you’re entitled to.

Tax deductions work to lower the amount of taxable income you have. Top tax deductions include:

  • Mortgage interest deduction: If you own a home and paid interest on your mortgage in 2015, you’re eligible to take a tax deduction for the amount of interest you paid.
  • Charitable contribution: Don’t forget to keep the receipts for any money or goods you donated. Charitable contributions are an often-overlooked tax deduction.
  • Self-employed health insurance: While being your own boss can be very expensive, don’t forget to take a deduction for the cost of your health insurance premiums.
  • State and local tax: If you pay state and local tax, you can deduct the amount you paid from your federal tax return.
  • Student loan interest: If you paid interest on your student loan this year and fall under certain income thresholds, you could be eligible to deduct up to $2,500 student loan interest.

Tax credits are a little different in that they lower the amount of tax you owe. Once you take your deductions and know how much tax you could owe, you have a chance to reduce that amount by claiming tax credits. These include:

  • Earned income credit: This credit benefits low to moderate income individuals and families who are currently working (including self-employed).
  • American Opportunity Credit: up to $2,500 of the first $4,000 of qualifying education expenses
  • Child and dependent care credit: available to people who must pay for childcare for dependents under age 13 in order to work or attend school

3. Gather everything you need before you begin.

I find the most frustrating part of filing taxes is trying to corral all the information I need. Once I have it all together, sitting down to actually file my taxes is made much easier. Here’s a list to start of the typical things you may want to gather before sitting down to get started:

  • Social security number
  • W2 from your employer
  • 1099s for other income (1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-K)
  • Last year’s tax return
  • Other income (self employment income not on a 1099)
  • Retirement account or IRA contributions
  • Student loan interest statement
  • Education costs (form 1098-T)
  • Home mortgage interest expense
  • Charitable donations
  • Checking account information for refund or payment

4. Be prepared with health insurance information.

Each person needs to show proof of health insurance, so be prepared to answer questions to prove that you are covered. If you are insured through your employer you’ll likely only need to answer a few basic questions. If you purchased your own insurance through a Marketplace, you’ll be sent form 1095-A that you need to use when filing your taxes. You’re potentially eligible for a tax credit from buying Marketplace insurance.

5. Keep notes for next year.

As Ben Franklin once noted, nothing is said to be certain, except death and taxes. Not really a cheery thought, but you get the drift. You can be certain you’ll file your taxes next year, so why not make it easier on yourself? Make sure to save a copy of your tax return to your computer and also make a list of all of the documents you needed. As they start rolling in next year, you’ll be able to quickly set aside everything you know you need.

6. File online.

While some of you may prefer the old pen and paper route, there is a much easier avenue! Filing online is not only fast and easy, but in some cases you can even file your federal tax return for free. You’ll also be sure you’re not missing out on any credits or deductions you might qualify for. And if you do receive a refund, you’ll actually receive it faster when you file online.

1040.com offers both Federal and State filing and will even file a basic 1040EZ for free. In 2015, for every tax return filed with them (including returns that are filed for free), $2 will be donated to Healing Waters International (HWI), a nonprofit on a mission to end the global water crisis. HWI not only works to provide clean water but they partner with the communities to educate them on proper health and hygiene. With Healing Waters, $25 gives fresh water to 1 woman or child in an underdeveloped part of the world for a year! Read more about their #25for25 campaign aimed at empowering women through clean water.

And one last thing to make tax season just a little bit easier: 1040.com is offering a giveaway to our readers!

 

Two people will win:
$500 cash
Free Federal and State tax return filing on 1040.com

To enter:
Follow The Everygirl and 1040.com on Facebook

Leave a comment here letting us know what you plan to do with your tax refund and the extra $500 cash if you win! Make sure your email is included so we can contact you. Enter by March 16th and the winner will be announced that evening on Facebook and Twitter!

Read here for official rules.

This post is sponsored by 1040.com but the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

  • Megan Wall

    2016 the year I take charge and get serious about paying back my school loans! My tax refund plus the cash bonus would really help me put some extra money toward my payments each month! Anything and everything helps! I can’t wait to knock these out! [email protected] 🙂

  • Amanda Gehring

    I would use my refund and the $500 extra if I win to help pay for my super marathon challenge that I’m spending 2016 training for – 48.6 miles in 4 days, culminating in a full marathon in January 2017!

  • Emily Rabbitt

    I am putting my tax return (and hopefully $500 cash) directly into savings! [email protected]

  • Jennifer Dugan Leslie

    I would love to use the refund/prize to add a screened porch to our house. We have a beautiful, but too short summer season in MN. Not to mention our state bird the mosquito 😉 The porch would be a great way to extend our outdoor season and spend time with our two young sons.

  • Laura Bradford

    I would use my tax refund and the prize money to help pay down some medical bills and add to my nest egg… fingers crossed!! ([email protected])

  • Sarah Riley Yarborough

    Work less so I can be at home with my children!

  • Valerie

    Always a good idea to put any extra dough into savings!

  • Laura L

    With my tax refund and the extra $500, I would purchase plane tickets for weddings in Florida and the British Virgin Islands !

  • Ailish Ryan

    I am currently working full time and taking part time classes for my graduate studies. I plan to sit for my Certified Public Accountant(CPA) exam next year, once I complete my Master of Accountancy program. The costs to study and sit for the exam are very high and on top of my undergraduate loans, and current tuition costs-the lack of finances to do so are always on my mind. This $500 might be minimal to some, but this would be a breath of fresh air for me and bring me one step closer to my goal of becoming a CPA.

  • Amy

    If I am lucky enough to win $500 i would use it to fix my car and put the rest toward savings. I currently ride the bus everyday, which wonderful and green but I’m afraid of what would happen in an emergency and I needed my car. {[email protected]}

  • StateTaxNerd

    My tax refund is definitely going towards student loan payments, but I may have to treat myself to some new spring clothes too!

  • Julie

    I would put it directly into my savings account! That would be amazing.

  • Jessica

    I will be paying down some debt!

  • Samantha Vilendrer

    My fiancé and I are using our tax refunds (and hopefully an extra $500 from The Everygirl and 1040.com) to pay for our destination wedding this summer! I can’t wait to marry my best friend! [email protected]

  • Morgan Roberts

    I started my own business this year and I’m dreading filing taxes! I know I am going to have to pay at least $400 and having the extra $500 cash would be amazing to cover that! It would also be amazing to have a reliable way to file my taxes! Thanks so much the everygirl! Y’all are amazing! [email protected]

  • Katherine

    I would put my tax return and the $500 away and save it!! Thanks for all of these helpful articles about being an adult! 🙂 [email protected]

  • Melissa Russell

    I would use the extra $500 towards my trip to Australia and New Zealand this summer!

  • Molly Johnson

    I plan to use my refund and (fingers crossed!) the $500 to put down a big payment on my student loans… I’m currently one tenth of the way through, and this money will really help! I also plan to treat myself to a little something special because hard work deserves a reward 🙂 thanks @theeverygirl and @1040.com! [[email protected]]

  • Molly Johnson

    I plan to use my refund and (fingers crossed!) the $500 to put down a big payment on my student loans… I’m currently one tenth of the way through, and this money will really help! I also plan to treat myself to a little something special because hard work deserves a reward 🙂 thanks @theeverygirl and @1040.com! [[email protected]]

  • Jillian

    I plan to save my refund and the $500 for a down payment on a house! [email protected]

  • Candess

    My tax refund will go towards summer camp for my little one. If I win the $500, I’ll use it to visit my best friend in Chicago! [[email protected]]

  • stoutnikki

    I started a new business last year and invested quite a bit more than I earned – so I plan to use my tax refund and the $500 to pay off some of that debt!

    Best of luck to everyone!
    [email protected]

  • Natalie Denyse

    Thanks for sharing this great opportunity! As an entrepreneur just starting a new business, I would reinvest the funds directly into my company. There are a few key initiatives I’ve been focused on, including website design and marketing materials that could be expedited with these resources. Thank you The Every Girl & 1040.com! I can be reached at [email protected]

  • Neal

    Home improvements

  • manda

    Love the giveaway. I would use the cash toward a trip. Thanks!

  • Nikki Benoit

    Decorating my new apartment! Loved this article and the useful tips! [email protected]

  • Kayla Gonzalez

    With $500, I will finally be able to pay off my debt and get started on the road to financial success! I’ve been working hard as a college student, waitress, and dancer and would love to be able to set myself up financially for graduate school in California. An additional $500 to start off my 2016 would take a huge weight off my shoulders and help me prepare for my endeavors ahead!

  • dresden

    it would definitely go into home renovations!
    [email protected]

  • Sasha Tenenbaum-Lane

    I would use the $500 extra and my tax return towards paying off my student loans! That and traveling to my family reunion, it’s time I meet my new baby cousin!

  • Kaitlyn

    I’d use my refund for a new laptop! I’m a writer, and I’m constantly working on my Macbook, but it’s way out of date. So the refund + $500 would definitely come in handy! Fingers crossed!! [email protected]

  • Emily Srofe

    Paying off my toddler’s medical bill! [email protected]

  • Elizabeth S

    I would put that 500 in my Roth account- trying to save for the future, but being in my midtwenties there are a lot of other expenses and budgets that come in to play!
    [email protected]

  • I would love to get a new computer, but realistically it would be a combo of saving for our girls’ educations, towards a new car, and/or adding a fence to our backyard.

    Would prefer to not leave an e-mail publicly…but I would respond to a comment here? Hope that’s OK. 😉

  • Mer

    My plans for my tax refund (and $500 if chosen) are to pay off some debt and put the rest into a college savings account we started for my 6 year daughter to attend college one day. [email protected]

  • Lokiandmia

    I have a friend getting married in Denmark, so with the extra $500 I would try to add another side trip to my adventure! Perhaps, Sweden! Thanks for the giveaway! [email protected]

  • Lauren Smith

    I would use the extra $500 (yes, please!) to either pay off my car or put down towards a new apartment! [[email protected]]

  • Angela

    Definitely putting my tax refund right towards tuition since I just started grad school part-time in February!

  • JS

    I would use the majority of my refund and the extra $500 cash to boost my savings and 401(k) accounts. I would use the rest towards a trip back home to Hawaii 🙂
    [email protected]

  • I’m crossing my fingers I get a refund 😉 But if I do, I’ll be putting it toward my fiance’s 30th birthday in Vegas!

    [email protected]

  • Meredith

    I will be putting half my tax return directly to savings and the other half directly to my Roth IRA retirement fund. If I am lucky enough to win the $500 that will be used for my vacation to Mexico 🙂 [email protected]

  • Arve Lloren

    Any tax tips for expats?

    If I win: school loans.

    ([email protected])

  • Jazz Freyre

    What I would love to do with my Tax re-fund (& hopefully $500) is to take my little brother to Disney land he’s going to be 13 in May and has wanted to go since he was a 5 and I really wants to try to get him there this year!! So I want to help give that awesome day to him 🙂 ([email protected])

  • Nicole Zerbini

    Thank you! I liked both pages. With this extra $500 and my tax refund, I plan on saving it to use as a down payment on a new house! [email protected]

  • Jen

    I generally put my refund towards retirement, it’s sensible and satisfying! If I got the $500 I would put $400 into savings and use $100 for my next vacation 🙂

  • Kaari Maestri

    I am 20 years old and this is my first year doing taxes and hopefully getting a decent refund. I want to start getting serious with saving for my future endeavors so I would put my refund and the $500 cash directly into a savings account which would get me started off on a great high note! [email protected]

  • Hayley Sullivan

    Pay for rent (and possibly a leather jacket)! Hayl1086 at gmail dot com

  • Jacquelyn Elizabeth Neal

    I will be using my tax return to pay for my moving expenses-I’m moving into an apartment by myself in 2 months!

  • Jenny Putrino

    I would use the $500 towards my Euro-trip of a lifetime! My boyfriend has been sick since September 2014 and we need a getaway. We both love Europe and have been planning to go once we can save some money. [email protected]

  • Sonia

    I’m putting my refund (and hopefully the extra $500!) towards my student loans and starting my official savings fund for my wedding next year! 🙂 [email protected]

  • Sarah_M_13

    I would put the money from a text refund and extra $500 toward buying a puppy. My beloved dog passed away in January, and while he can never be replaced, I want another little puppy-guy to cuddle and love. [email protected]

  • Very helpful tips! I’ve just bought condo with my single 30-something salary a month ago and I’m saving up for a few renovations. The tax refund and the $500 from 1040.com would go right towards my dream bathroom! [email protected]

  • Noelle Anderson

    I would use the $500 in a few ways! First get a much needed pedicure (spring pink please!), second pay down part of my student loan (I only have 5k left!!), third my husband and I are going on a trip to Williamsburg, VA soon-part of the $500 would go toward a fun outing during our trip! xo
    [email protected]

  • Gabby

    I would use the tax refund and the $500 for my student loans. Every little bit helps!

  • Hannah Wolf

    I would use my refund and the extra $500 cash to help pay my student loans from grad school and toward a plane ticket home to surprise my parents for their 30th wedding anniversary! ([email protected])

  • Alex Mullin

    My tax refund and $500 would go into savings to help fund a future MBA! ([email protected])

  • Breonna McDuffie

    2015 proved to be a great year as I accomplished a lot in the past year by graduating from my dream college, getting my first “big girl” job and moving into my first apartment in my dream city. While it’s mentioned filing taxes is one of the last things we do before 2015 is 100% behind us, it makes me reflect on how great 2015 was. This will be the first year I file taxes, and I plan to reward myself by planning a small trip as one of my New Years resolutions was to travel more in my youth. I still plan to save a majority of the refund so that I can save for my own business that I want to start in the field of event planning, photography and blogging. An additional $500 would be a great seed into building my own business and brand! 🙂 [email protected]

  • Anne

    I’m an independent contractor so the $500 would be an awesome bonus to go towards paying my taxes from 2015! Thanks for the opportunity EveryGirl and 1040.com love the blog and this post 🙂 [email protected]

  • Terry

    Go on vacation

  • Emily Elizabeth

    I would use the $500 to travel to my friend’s wedding in Florida this year! (and the remainder towards school loans) ([email protected])

  • Liz Schultz

    Honestly, I would treat myself and my boyfriend to an epic long weekend away. I’d use the money on gas, food, and camping to explore Canyonlands National Park, an area I’ve never visited before. Like they say, go somewhere you have never been before at least once a year!

  • Adrianna

    I’ll take a much needed vacation!
    [email protected]

  • Dana Roberts

    Last year, I unfortunately paid $1,000 in taxes due to uneducated, young adult mistakes! This year, with the $500 dollars, I’d like to add it to my savings that I unfortunately shrunk significantly with my payment last year. Thank you for the amazing opportunity! – [email protected]

  • I plan to pay off a portion of my school tuition with my tax refund and the extra $500 to go towards my saving up for a car so that I can commute to school and cut the cost of my tuition for the remaining of college career!
    [email protected]

  • McKenzie Gardner

    We just bought a house – built in 1908! So my refund (and hopefully $500 cash) will go straight to restoring the house’s original charm. [email protected]

  • I would definitely love to win the $500 — Unfortunately, I’m sure I’m going to owe this year. Lol I would use the extra money to pay for what I owe on my taxes! 🙂 This answer isn’t the most “fun” but it sure is truthful! #RealLife #Taxes Email: [email protected]

  • Jenna Tackett

    My tax refund is pretty much going towards student loans. My goal is to have the smallest one, which I used when studying abroad, paid off this year. I’d also love to get a few things for my living room, like a slipcover for my chair and my gallery wall finished, and the extra $500 would be great for that! My email is [email protected]

  • Judy Wilson

    I like that you said to be prepared with health insurance information when preparing my taxes. That seems like something that I should know since I’ve just started having them filed. I would want to get a tax credit for having insurance, so I’ll be prepared with the appropriate forms when I sit down to file my taxes tonight. Thanks for the tips!
    http://twincitiesaccountingpc.com/services.html

  • Sylvia

    Just curious as to if a winner was chosen. I checked the Everygirl’s social media on the 16th and didn’t see anything about the contest mentioned.

  • James Bergman

    If you are anything like me then getting everything together before filing taxes is a must. I always keep all of my W2s, receipts, etc. together to make my life easy. Then I pull it all out when I need them and can sit down and file my taxes all at once without searching the house for more everything I need. http://www.balkcom.com/tax-services.html

  • Kendall Everett

    Your suggestion to make a list of all the tax documents you need was really smart. Having next years taxes organized and ready to go really speeds up the process. Having the same person file your taxes each year could also help speed up the process. http://miles-tax.com/services/tax-preparation/

  • Dexter Gomez

    I think that you should write more about this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people do not speak about these subjects. To the next! Many thanks!! http://www.lawinorder.com.sg/