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Tax Preparation Checklist: 3 Things to Do to Get Your Tax Return Done on Time

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The end of the year is often a time of reflection and hope. There’s the promise of who you could be, the things you could do and the type of life you could live.

Getting on top of filing your taxes, however, rarely makes it to the top of resolutions lists. But given how complicated and frustrating taxes can be, it’s a good idea — even if it isn’t quite as alluring as your other goals. Plus, you’ll be that much closer to a refund, which averages $3,651 for Americans who receive one.

“It’s never too early to start preparing for filing your 2022 taxes,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “Even if you wait to file at the last minute for whatever reason, it still makes sense to get your ducks in a row early on. Life happens, and the last thing you want is to scramble.”

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for tax time.

3 tips to get your taxes done on time

No. 1: Update your address

If you’ve moved this year (or will soon), contact your employer to make sure it has your new address. That way, there won’t be a slowdown in getting your W-2 or 1099 forms, and you’ll be able to get your taxes done much faster. After all, tax forms tend to have highly sensitive personal details, such as your Social Security number. It’s worth double-checking — even if you’ve set up mail forwarding.

Your company’s human resources department should be able to help. For context, employers must provide all income forms by Feb. 1, as required by the IRS. (If possible, set a quick reminder for that date to ensure you’ve received everything on time.)

No. 2: Gather your information

It’s easy to get slowed down in filing your taxes because you don’t have all the necessary information. So the best approach is being proactive.

If your taxes are straightforward, there may be little more to it than gathering personal ID information, such as Social Security numbers and birthdates, along with your W-2.

“However, if your taxes are more complex, you might have more work ahead of you,” Schulz says. “You’ll need records for all your various sources of income, ranging from stock sales and interest income to unemployment assistance and alimony. You’ll also need documentation for any deductions you intend to claim, including those involving your home, health care, child care or charitable donations. These things take time to pull together.”

Here’s some of the information you’ll want to have in advance:

  • Social Security number, tax ID number or employer identification number (if you’re a small business owner)
  • Total income. This can be calculated once you have all your forms from employers or pensions, like W-2s and 1099s. It should also include interest and dividend income, which your bank or brokerage should provide.
  • Total deductible expenses. Some common deductions include contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs), traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs), student loan or mortgage interest and charitable donations. Depending on your line of work, you may also have related tax credits or tax-deductible expenses. You may also have to provide proof of contributions, or receipts, if applicable.
  • Taxes you’ve paid this year. For example, state or local income taxes paid beyond your normal withholding. Self-employed individuals who make quarterly estimated payments must also provide information about the amounts paid and corresponding dates.

No. 3: Consider using a tax professional

It sometimes makes sense to use a tax professional’s services. In that case, you’ll want to start looking for one soon.

“Everyone’s comfort level is different when it comes to tax preparation, but if you ever feel you’re out of your depth when it comes to doing your taxes, consider getting professional help,” Schulz says. “It’s too important to just try to guess your way through. If your filing only involves a W-2 or two, it may not be complicated. However, once you start to layer in things like side hustles, stock grants, rental properties and alimony, things can get confusing. Never be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help.”

Cost is a common concern here, so it’s a good idea to see what options are available locally and compare those to tax software. That way, you can gauge the costs versus the rewards.

“You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get it done,” he adds. “For example, there are likely organizations in your area providing free tax prep services for folks with low income and other special circumstances.”

 

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