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5 Essential Steps to Prepare for Tax Season

Take simple steps to reduce your stress on the big day.

Meeting with professionals or doing taxes yourself can prove stressful, as it’s often required to have numerous documents, legal forms, bank account information, tax IDs, and more, all at your fingertips. Here are some tips from professionals that can help you make this tax season a little less stressful.

1. Get organized

Even though we are well into the new year, it’s never too late (or early) to start organizing and collecting forms and documents you’ll need to do your taxes. If you haven’t received a W2 or W9 from last year’s employers, give them a call or send an email requesting a digital copy and a printed copy mailed to your residence. Having the digital copy stored on your computer in an appropriately labeled folder can help you keep documents organized and easily available should you lose the physical copy. In addition to requesting digital copies of forms scan in or take photos with your cell phone of the various physical tax-related forms you’ll be receiving, you’ll thank yourself later.

2. Ask the right questions

As you request and organize your tax forms, be thinking of questions you have about filing taxes for this year. Have you invested more than usual, taken money out of stocks, bonds, or an IRA? Have you spent more than usual on education, your mortgage, a car, or received a large sum of money from a deceased relative? Write down any questions or note-worthy events that happened during the year, and any numbers related to those things for reference when filing your taxes. If you meet with a tax professional, be sure to raise your questions when you begin, and if you’re filing yourself with software, make sure during the process your questions were addressed (if not, email customer support for clarification).

3. Search for deductions

Before you meet with your tax professional or start filing on your own, start looking up deductions related to the questions you’ve written down. Think of anything you spent money on this year that was outside the norm, and search for tax deductions related to your expenses. You may be eligible for reimbursement for home improvement items like roofing, air conditioner repair, or energy efficiency upgrades. Tax incentives for fuel efficient cars, education, starting a business, or donating to a church or other charity are also commonly overlooked by people filing their taxes.

4. Use legitimate software

If you’re going the do-it-yourself route of filing taxes, make sure you use some legitimate software that’s been well reviewed. Especially during this time of year, internet advertisements explode across the web directing users to use foreign, questionable, or insecure tax filing solutions. Most legitimate companies that offer software for filing from home will offer email, phone, and web support to help ensure you have the help you need to get your questions answered. Make sure you look at the beginning of the web address you’re using for “https://” instead of just “http://”which signifies a secure and encrypted connected with the remote server.

5. Plan to e-file

Filing your federal taxes is free and easy when you use the government’s e-file system. Most software based tax companies offer to file your federal taxes for free, as it’s so easy to do already. The main benefit to e-filing your taxes with the federal government is that your return is almost guaranteed to come weeks if not months earlier than if you opt for the mailing method.

Aimee Watts is a staff writer for Mobile Moo. She has spent ten years telecommuting full-time, and loves spreading tips and advice for fellow work-at-home parents. She loves gadgets, new ideas, and skiing with her two favorite people: her husband and teenage son. They live in Evergreen, Colorado.

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