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For many people, tax season can be a source of anxiety and procrastination. However, with a little planning, doing your taxes this year could be relatively painless. Consider these six tax resolutions for the New Year and how to actually stick to them.
Resolve to know what you’ll owe
Even if you have only one full-time job that deducts the correct amounts from your taxes, other parts of your life can affect how much you owe. Don’t let the tax amount take you by surprise. Keep in mind that income from leases, settlements, and purchase agreements may lead to more taxes owed at the end of the year. Try to prepare appropriately by keeping enough money in your savings account to cover any extra you may owe. Of course, if you’re a freelancer, it’s important to keep track of all income you earned.
Resolve to keep all the files you need organized and in one place
Employers and clients may send tax documents such as W-2 or 1099 forms by regular mail or email, and nearly always in January. Be on the lookout for them. If you’ve been so inclined, you may already have a box filled with receipts from the current year.
If you take the time now to start organizing your 2015 documents, you’ll be ready to claim your tax return (or pay your tax bill) as soon as possible. If your receipts are disorganized, consider setting up a filing system . Be sure to keep receipts for medical expenses, charitable donations, and work-related purchases. It’s not even too early to begin filling a box or create a filing system for your 2016 receipts and tax documents.
Resolve to file early
The earlier you decide to file, the sooner you’ll know if you’re missing any paperwork. You’ll also have more time to find and correct any errors on your forms before the filing deadline. And, of course, if you have a refund coming, you may receive that money earlier, especially if you file before the end-of-season rush.
Filing early may also decrease the chances you’ll be a victim of tax-related identity theft. The longer you wait to file, the more time an identity thief has to file using your personal information. That means a thief could get your refund and cause serious headaches for you in future filing years.
Resolve to file electronically
Each year, more and more people e-file their taxes. It is not only easier—thanks to tax preparation programs that can file for you—but it’s also faster. There’s no chance of your paperwork getting lost in the mail or mistakes stemming from an employee manually entering your information. Through electronic filing, your entries go directly into the Internal Revenue Service computer system.
Resolve to file for an extension if you need it
If 2015 wasn’t your most organized year and you’re scrambling to get the correct documents together, don’t fear: you can file for an extra six months to get your tax forms to the IRS. Filing for an extension doesn’t cost anything, and you’re usually not penalized or at higher risk for an audit. However, you usually still need to pay all taxes owed by April 15; if you end up owing more tax than you paid, you may be assessed interest and even a penalty on any unpaid tax amount. If you need the time, consider taking it; it can be better than filing your taxes incorrectly before the April 15 deadline.
Resolve to ask for help when you need it
If you feel lost come tax season, a tax professional may make your life easier. Several types of professionals are qualified to help with your taxes, whether you just need advice or someone to fill out and file your returns for you. You can consult with an attorney, a certified public accountant, an enrolled agent, an enrolled retirement plan agent, or an enrolled actuary. Use the searchable public directory on IRS.gov to find qualified tax preparers.
Megan Craig is a Chicago-based journalist and communications professional who writes mostly about personal finance and consumer issues. She is a former reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @megcraig1.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.
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