April 15 is a special day on the calendar — but probably not one you’re celebrating. We’re talking, of course, about Tax Day. 2015’s tax season has come and gone, and it was quite a doozy. So we’re here to spread the word about easy tax filing tips we picked up. Whether you’re a first-time filer or an experienced taxpayer, use these seven tricks to smoothly sail through tax deadline day.
1. Get organized
Easy tax filing is all about having the right documentation. The moment you receive your first form, get a folder or container to keep them together and secure. Get an unknown form? Look it up. The more you know about the way taxes work, the better you’ll be at finding refunds, so it pays to be curious.
2. Stay ahead of the game
Don’t procrastinate. The longer you wait to file your taxes, the less time you’ll have to resolve any issues you run into before Tax Day.
3. Know your status
As today’s tax forms are recognizing more and different kinds of living arrangements, be sure to choose the right filing status. People often misunderstand the term, “Head of Household.” To file under this status, you must have a qualifying dependent living in your home.
4. Avoid family claim conflicts
Communication is key. Students, talk with your parents before you file to see if they are claiming you as a dependent. This is an exemption that can only appear on one tax return. Create an open dialogue about each of your tax situations to determine the smartest way for everyone to file.
5. Choose the right filing method for you
You’ve organized and communicated, so now it’s time to file. There are pros and cons to each method of filing, but it’s all about your preference. E-filing your taxes is accurate and speedy, but may pose a higher audit or security risk because of typos or possible identity theft. While most taxes can be done electronically, some complicated tax situations may call for paper filing. Additionally, if you’re a first-time filer, you may feel more comfortable going to see a tax preparer in person.
6. Don’t overlook deductions
Make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Here are some common deductions that get overlooked:
- State and local taxes
- Child and dependent care credit
- Job-search expenses
- Earned income tax credit
- Charitable contributions paid through payroll deductions
7. File an extension if you need to
Filing for an IRS extension is free when you file an extension by the April 15 deadline. This gives you more time if you:
- Have any missing or inaccurate information
- Will be out of town during tax season
- Simply run out of time