The moment of truth is nearly upon those of us who waited to file federal income taxes.
This year’s tax deadline is April 15. The longer you wait, the more you increase the chance of making a mistake under pressure.
Here are a few tips for meeting the deadline confidently and accurately.
Gather your income and deduction information before you sit down. Know the Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse and your children. Look at last year’s return and make sure you have the documents to support any of the same claims you plan to make this year.
A few examples:
Income: You’ll need W-2s and 1099s for income, including Form 1099-INT for interest earned on a bank account.
Deductions and credits: If you’re itemizing, grab Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, for deducting interest paid on a loan for your own home. Also, collect receipts for purchases and payments related to:
- Health care
- Charitable donations
- Child care
- Retirement savings contributions
Pick a preparer
Decide who’s going to file your taxes — you or a professional tax preparer.
If you made $55,000 or less last year — or meet other qualifications — you may qualify for free in-person preparation of basic tax forms through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
The IRS Free File website also offers the use of brand-name software to file for those whose income is less than $66,000. For those with income of more than $66,000, the IRS offers free online filing with fillable forms.
If you need in-person help, accountants and other tax preparation offices are available. In many cases, they are open late as the filing deadline looms.
For more ideas, check out: “Tax Hacks 2019: How to Get the Right Tax Pro at the Right Price.”
Even though you only have a short time left to file, don’t rush! Mistakes can be costly and could delay any refund you might be due, the IRS warns. The most common errors for last-minute filers include:
- Basic errors: Such mistakes include entering incorrect Social Security numbers, misstating an address or a filing status, checking the wrong exemption boxes and listing the incorrect bank routing numbers for direct deposit of refunds.
- Income: Don’t forget dividends, state tax refunds, unemployment payments and earnings from side jobs or freelance work. If the IRS discovers you left any of these out, you may owe penalties.
- Deductions and credits: For itemizers, remember to include state and local income taxes paid, real estate and personal property taxes paid and miscellaneous business expenses. Even if you don’t itemize, do not ignore “above the line” deductions for educator expenses, health savings accounts, and tuition and fees.
Lower your bill
Three things you can do before April 15 to lower your tax bill include:
- Contribute to your self-employed 401(k).
- Contribute to your IRA.
- Contribute to your health savings account (HSA).
Don’t sweat the deadline
If you can’t get your taxes done by April 15, file for an automatic extension with Form 4868, which usually gives you an extra six months.
Just keep in mind that the extension only applies to filing your return, not paying what you owe. The government wants your tax dollars by April 15.
What’s your approach to filing taxes? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.