It’s March, and that means three things: college basketball, the beginning of spring, and a looming tax return deadline. If you’re like many Americans, you may put filing your taxes off until the last minute. After all, who wants to devote several hours to digging around for old receipts, crunching numbers, and filling out mind-numbing forms?
It doesn’t have to be a confusing process—and in fact, if you put enough time and effort into it, you may find yourself getting back more money than you imagined possible. While the first thought may be to hire someone else to do taxes, with a little determination, it’s easy to file your own, which saves you even more money.
The first thing you’ll need to do is get a copy of your 1099s if you’re a contracted employee or a W2 if you’re a regular hourly or salaried employee. Then, review all the details with a fine-toothed comb. Are withholdings correct? Is total income for the year correct? Sometimes taxpayers neglect to check these numbers, but a single mistake here by an employer could end up costing you.
Next, find copies of receipts for anything purchased related to a job. If you work from home, are a contracted employee or own your own business, this could lead to a substantial refund. If you work for a traditional employer, your refund might be less—but it’s still worth saving (and gathering) those receipts anyway. Small items like uniforms and other job-related equipment can add up.
Those are the two major steps. But don’t overlook records of any charitable donations made in the last year (both money and goods), bank statements, and any records of IRA contributions. Again, these may seem like minor details on a tax return, but when combined, they can add up to make a difference in the amount you receive after the tax return is submitted to Uncle Sam.
Don’t wait until April 14to get started! Do it early and save the headache and hassle of a frantic, last minute tax return.