There are only a few things that are certain – death, taxes, and stress over filing taxes. Getting your finances in order for tax season can be a stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, much of the stress that comes from filing taxes is due to a lack of preparation and the refusal to accept help if you get bogged down in the process. Here are some essential tips for making tax filing season as stress free as possible.
Get your documents in order
Don’t sit down to do your taxes without first getting all the necessary documents in order. Locate your W-2s, 1099s, home mortgage returns, student loan information, and so on before you begin the filing process. Don’t just think about yourself – make sure you have all the documents for your spouse and dependents as well. A little organization (and the right W-2 software, 1099 software, or e-file software) can go a long way.
Be honest and reasonable
There’s something about tax season that makes us all want to bend the rules a little bit – like getting a little too creative with our deductions. One way to put a bunch of stress on yourself is to be dishonest or unreasonable with your taxes.
“This is the easiest piece of advice out there, but for some reason during tax time we all want to slip into the gray area. Just stay honest,” says Entrepreneur magazine. “Don’t try to get creative with your accounting and keep it straightforward and you shouldn’t have any problems. It’s tempting to want to maximize your tax breaks and even tax refunds, but never make a claim that would affect your integrity. It’s just not worth it.”
Saving a few bucks on a tax return is not worth the hassle of drawing the ire of the IRS. In the end, that hundred-dollar saving could turn into a thousand-dollar penalty. Avoid this nightmare by playing your taxes straight.
Do what you can do avoid security issues
Tax season is a prime time for identity theft and other security issues. Nothing will throw a wrench into your springtime cheer more than being compromised during tax season. The Better Business Bureau offers these tips:
“Tax season is a busy one for identity thieves. It is important to avoid mistakes that could result in additional fees, or even tax identity theft. This can happen when someone uses your Social Security number to get your tax refund. To lessen the chances of becoming a victim of tax identity theft, follow a few rules: file your tax return early; use a secure Internet connection if you file; shred documents such as copies of your tax return, drafts or calculation sheets you no longer need: and check your credit report to ensure your identity hasn’t been stolen or compromised.”
Maybe the most important thing there is to file early. Criminals usually try to file fake returns with stolen social security numbers earlier in the tax season, and you can prevent yourself from falling victim by beating them to the punch. Also, filing early means an earlier return – so it’s really a no-brainer. Don’t procrastinate.
Some people have no problems completing their taxes without any professional help. Some people struggle. If you struggle, you may just want to bite the bullet and hire a professional. This could mean you hire an actual tax preparation service, or simply pay for online software that helps you file. The more complicated your tax situation, the more likely it is that a professional service can help you keep things straight and also find you the largest return possible.
Ms. Morris is a life and career coach who strives to help others live the best lives that they can. She believes she can relate to clients who feel run over by life because of her own experiences. She spent years in an unfulfilling career in finance before deciding to help people in other ways.