How to Prepare for the Tax Season

If you dread April 15th, you’re certainly not alone— millions of stomachs churn at the threat of parting with money, or the accompanying paperwork. It’s even worse if you put it off until the last minute.

So instead of making things tougher, why not prepare for tax day today?

You first need to make a big decision:

Do your taxes yourself, or use a tax preparer?

As always, the answer depends on your needs. Software has made self-preparation easier than ever; some programs can be through the Internet with minimal charge (such as TurboTax Online or H&R Block Online). This could be the best of both worlds, with personal control mixed with outside advice.

Of course, the old calculate-it-yourself method is still valid, and is the cheapest of all options (free). But if you’re new to the game or have a lot of deduction questions, you probably shouldn’t choose this.

The alternative is to pay for a preparer. There’s value received in getting a human touch, but this is the priciest option.

Again: what do you need? Are you juggling so many assets and potential tax credits that it would take your own personal auditing firm to sort it all out? Are you a single wage-earner with a deduction or two? Or somewhere in between?

Regardless of what you choose, you still need certain information available before you begin:

  • Your social security number.
  • Your W-2 form(s) from your employer(s), listing compensation and withheld taxes.
  • A 1099 form if you have other forms of income.
  • Receipts for claiming deductions.
  • Last year’s taxes.
  • Detailed information on your bank accounts.
  • Detailed information on your assets (home, mortgage info, etc.)

There’s one more question to answer before you crunch numbers:

Which form are you filing?

Federal law gives you guidelines:

File a 1040 if you plan to itemize deductions, or if you are self-employed, or you earned over $100,000.

File a 1040EZ if you do not plan to itemize.

File a 1040A if you have some common deductions, like retirement contributions or child credit, but do not plan to itemize the rest.

And don’t forget about your State forms.

Hey, nobody likes tax season (except preparers). Get started early— know what you’re doing.

Alexander Carl

Alexander Carl

I find it difficult to brag about myself. Too modest? Perhaps.

Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.

Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.

I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.

Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.

Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.
Alexander Carl

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