Right as we all get back into the swing of things after the most wonderful time of year, the most tedious time of year rears its ugly head. Why yes, tax season is right around the corner. While there is something to be said for setting a calendar reminder a week before April 15th and blissfully ignoring your taxes, the more responsible route would be to face tax season head-on. To make that a less overwhelming prospect, we’ve rounded up our top five tips for making tax season significantly easier.
1. Use a secret tax weapon
You could try to do your own taxes, and a lot of people do. But according to IRS data, DIY-ing your taxes, even with the help of software, means you’re five times more likely to make a mistake than if you hired someone to help you. And that’s not even counting potential credits and deductions you missed because you simply don’t know they exist. We know what you’re thinking…I can’t afford an expensive accountant. Enter Circle CPA, a resource we’re so glad we found in time for tax season. Their service allows you to work with expert CPAs (the highest level of accountant) who will do your taxes for you, saving you both time and money.
Here’s where things get interesting: you pay them what you want to pay them. That’s right, there is no set price for their services. You simply pay them the price you’d like to pay. Sounds too good to be true? It’s really not. You can learn more details about how their pricing system works here.
2. Marie Kondo your filing cabinet
If you’re not ready to sit down and crunch the numbers, then take an easy first step towards dominating tax season. Spend a Saturday afternoon getting organized. Clean out your filing cabinet, desk, or junk drawer where you keep your mail and make sure important papers are clearly organized. Tax wise, you’ll want to create a folder of all the paperwork and forms you’ll need for this season, but you should also separate last year’s forms (including your returns) and have them ready to go in case you need to reference them.
Not only is this process helpful in general for staying organized, but chances are you’ll come across important forms you forgot about or receipts for purchases you want to write off. When the day to do your taxes does roll around, you’ll be able to start without feeling frustrated or flustered.
3. Start earlier than you actually want to
Employers have to send out W-2 forms by the end of January, which means there is no reason you can’t start your taxes in mid-February. That may feel early, but it gives you a little leeway to correct mistakes or to seek professional help if you realize you need it. Maybe you’re a freelancer who discovers a client forgot to send them their I-9 form. If you start early, you’ll have time to track that down. There’s really no need to wait and you’ll have peace of mind when you turn your taxes in early. Plus, there will be way shorter lines at the post office on March 15th.
4. Brush up on your tax knowledge
If you don’t know a W-2 from a W-4, then it might be time to learn some of the basics. Even if you choose to hire professional help, it will be empowering to understand our tax system and how it affects you. When it comes to money, it’s never a good idea to blindly let anyone advise you. Take an hour or two before you start the process of filing taxes to learn what the different forms you’ve received mean, what types of tax breaks may be available to you, and what expenses you can and can’t write off.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out the IRS’s educational offerings. Their handy Tax Tutorials will walk you through the basics and answer some questions you didn’t know you had. For example, they’ll teach you how to report interest from a 1099 form. If you’re not sure what that form is or why you have to report the interest you earned, then these tutorials will be a total lifesaver.
5. Create good habits for future tax seasons
Every year, tax season hits like a tornado. It comes and goes quickly and leaves a mess of papers and stressed out people in its wake. Do yourself a favor this year and use this current tax season to identify problems you want to avoid in the future. Those who are self-employed might want to create a system for tracking expenses better if they struggled with that this year. If you’re a salaried employee and owed money, you may want to talk to HR about pulling more money out of your paycheck each month to cover taxes so you’re not hit with an expensive surprise next year. If you didn’t score an appointment with a professional tax advisor in time, set a calendar reminder to make one earlier next year. You can minimize future hiccups with a little planning. Your future self will thank you, we promise.
This post is sponsored by Circle CPA, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl Media Group editorial board.