By Holly Reisem Hanna
It's tax time again, and if you're anything like me, this time of year tends to generate a little bit of stress. Even though I've been filing tax returns since I was 15, with new tax rules and IRS jargon the process can be intimidating. Add in the circumstances like getting married, having a baby, or starting a business, and the process becomes even more muddled.
But don't worry — just because you've had a significant life change or you don't fully understand all the new IRS tax laws doesn't mean that you can't file on your own behalf. I've been through all three of the scenarios as mentioned above and continued to do my taxes myself.
If you want to alleviate some of the stress of tax time here are some tips for making it easier.
If there was ever a time to get organized it's during tax season. The last thing you want to be doing is scrambling around for your tax documents when you get ready to file your return. Each January, I create a spreadsheet and designated file folder for all my tax goodies. By doing this, I know what 1099s, W9s, and other tax documents I have received and where they are located. By doing this, you can ensure that you have all of the appropriate documents and who you may need to follow up with if you're missing something. If you're uncertain of which documents you need, H&R Block has this free tax preparation checklist — all you have to do is answer a few simple questions, and it creates a free downloadable checklist based off of your replies.
If you're self-employed or an independent contractor, you will also need to keep meticulous records of your income and expenses (this means saving all of your business receipts). There are lots of different tools, apps, and platforms that you can use for doing this — it doesn't matter which one you choose to use just be sure you have a system in place for collecting this information.
Use a Reputable Tax Preparation Program.
When my husband and I got married, we had no clue whether it was advantageous to file separately or jointly — so we decided to use H&R Block's online tax preparation platform. Not only did it tell us which way was more advantageous for our situation, but it walked us through the entire process step-by-step. If there was something we didn't understand, all we had to do was click on the little question mark icon, and it explained the matter in more detail. Even today as a business owner, I still use H&R Block's tax preparation platform.
The great thing about using H&R Block is you can do your taxes 100 percent online, at anytime and anywhere. And with over 60 years of tax experience — you can rest assured that your taxes are being done properly; plus H&R Block offers a 100 percent accuracy guarantee.
Besides being super easy to use, H&R Block has some cool features, like it transfers your basic information over from year-to-year (which saves you time), online refund and payment options, and this cool tax calculator which estimates your tax refund for free.
H&R Block also has a new online product called, More Zero, which allows clients to prepare and file their federal and state 1040EZ, 1040A, and 1040 with Schedule A for completely free. This is an amazing benefit to homeowners, those who itemize deductions and those with medical/childcare expenses because they can file for free. Best of all you don’t need a coupon to receive this offer.
Mark Your Calendar.
When I first started my business, I had no idea that you had to pay quarterly self-employment taxes. Needless to say, when I did my taxes that year, I was hit with a stiff penalty. To avoid financial penalties make sure you mark your calendar with these important dates!
April 18, 2017 – 2016 Income Tax Return Due Date
April 18, 2017 – First Installment of Your 2017 Estimated Taxes Due
June 15, 2017 – Second Installment of Your 2017 Estimated Taxes Due
September 15, 2017 – Third Installment of Your 2017 Estimated Taxes Due
January 15, 2018 – Third Installment of Your 2017 Estimated Taxes Due
What fears do you have about filing your own taxes? How do you make tax time easier? We would love to hear from you.
This post was sponsored by H&R Block. Please be aware we only promote advertising from companies that we feel we can legitimately recommend to our readers. See our disclosure policy for further information.