Let’s Get Real:
Alright, let’s talk tax prep. I get it, taxes suck. I 100% support an easier filing system. Recently, I listened to an NPR podcast about how the US Gov could simplify taxes (they already know how much you owe them) and it really made me hate doing my taxes that much more. If you feel like postponing your taxes for an additional 20 minutes, give it a listen.
Alas, there is a reason people say “sure as death and taxes” and here I am writing about how if you’re going to do them, you might as well get them done fast!
Get it together:
The first thing you need to do is tax prep. Print all your forms and organize your receipts. You need your 1099’s, your W2’s, etc. Depending on how easily you can log in to your accounts and round up this paperwork, this step should take you less than 20 minutes. When you get rolling, you want to be plugging numbers in and not calculating up totals. You can use this nifty list to start your tax prep.
Use a program you trust:
The main goal here is to complete your taxes only once, as in, to avoid an audit. I read that if you do your taxes on paper (like the cavemen did) vs on the computer you’re 20 times more likely to make a mistake. Makes sense. This is not the time to go “paleo” haha bad joke. SO, you’re more likely to do your taxes accurately and maximize your deductions if you use a program that guides you.
I am a firm believer in doing my own taxes. Mine aren’t complicated, and most people’s aren’t. You can use a web-based program or download a program from amazon: Turbo Tax software or H&R Block software. If you’re old school, you can pick up the disc at Costco. I have used TurboTax online for the past 4 years, I pay for the Deluxe version because I like that it imports previous data. Click here for 20% off.
Bust it Out:
I know it sucks, but just get them done. Turn on some inspirational music and get all the basic info entered in one sitting. Friendly reminder: if you received a tax form, so did the IRS. Don’t round up or down and don’t forget to enter all of your income. I once had to claim a $100 gift card I got from my apartment complex as a “signing bonus” because they sent me a 1099. Barf.
Double Check Your Work:
Better yet, make your spouse/sister/high-school student do it. Make sure you someone double checks your forms. Unless you have experienced a major life change, your numbers should be similar to your previous tax returns…..
Tips a Tricks for Tax Prep:
Beware of products automatically “upgrading” your purchase (especially for web-based programs). Start with the basic program (often free) and upgrade as needed. I found that some programs automatically recommend the “premium” service, even if you really only need the standard or deluxe version. This is basically the same as when the waiter recommends the filet mignon. Yeah, it’s great, but so is the french dip sandwich…..
It is much easier to upgrade than it is to downgrade (think at least 30 minutes on the phone with customer support). I use mint.com to track my expenses. You can enter multiple accounts (credit cards, checking accounts, etc) and use the search function in Mint to find specific transactions. Don’t remember how much you spent on your professional association membership or how much you spent on your eye exam and contacts? You can search and find that info. You can also sort by category or search by name (this is helpful if you’re itemizing your medical expenses).
As an absolute last resort:
You can file for an extension here. Unfortunately, you may incur penalty and interest charges.
Also, although there is no immediate tax deduction, you can still contribute to your Roth IRA for 2016 (up until April 18th, 2017). Read more about why I love Roth IRA’s here.
So there it is. Follow these simple strategies to do your taxes in less than an hour. What’re your favorite tax prep strategy or program?
*I am not a tax professional. Consult your tax professional if you have questions.