Taxes are a part of life that no one enjoys. They combine the two things we hate most in life: paperwork and giving money to the government. While both of those are valid reasons to dislike tax season, we tend to use them as excuses to put off doing our taxes until the last minute.
The truth is that taxes would be a whole lot easier to get through if we just got them out of the way as soon as possible. By putting things off to the last minute you also risk forgetting an important detail or document that could end up getting you audited by the IRS. For all these reasons, it is in your best interest to get organized, gather the documents you're going to need and start thinking about how you want to file your taxes. Here are the 4 essentials steps to get your taxes organized.
The most important part of getting organized for tax day is to get all your important documents organized and in one place. What kind of documents should you be gathering? Any important receipts, W2 or 1099 forms from your employer, interest statements from your mortgage and student loans, child care receipts, alimony payments, social security income, title loans, investment income: essentially anything that showed how you earned or spent money throughout the previous year is something you'll want to have on hand when filing your taxes.
This is a subset of the first step, but with some statements or receipts, you may have to request copies from multiple parties that could take a while to reach you, so it's important to start gathering these statements as early as possible. For example, any employer you worked for in the preceding year is legally obligated to mail you your W-2 by the end of January, but if you still haven't gotten one a week or two beyond this deadline there's no harm in talking or emailing HR to make sure it's on its way.
While this isn't the right option for everyone, more and more people are using online tax services to complete and submit the state and federal taxes. Sites like Turbotax offer very reasonable filing surfaces that will walk you through each step of filing your taxes, automatically checking for every possible deduction that you qualify for. You can start and stop working on your taxes whenever you want, and everything is saved online for you.
Depending on how complex your taxes are going to be, you may want to consider going to an accountant to get them straightened out. If you take your time to find the right one, an accountant can be surprisingly affordable. In fact, many accountants end up paying for themselves with the number of deductions they're able to find for you. While it may cost you a little more upfront, a certified accountant can save you a lot of money and headaches down the line.