Tax Preparation 101: Basics You Need To Know

November 2016 / By Charlie Howell / Contact Me

Individuals can either go about tax preparation themselves, or hire a tax preparer to do the job for them. Many people simply do not have the time or are not computer savvy to complete and submit their tax returns, and so turn to the services of an accountant. Whatever you opt for, remember there's no cause for panic! Tax preparation can seem like an overwhelming job, but with some foresight, you should be able to cut down on the hassle and stress.

Choose a Filing Method

You can opt to use a tax advisor's services to have your taxes prepared for you. Tax advisors are professionals, and while their services do not come cheap, you might save yourself from making some expensive errors down the road. Alternatively, individuals could choose to use online tax preparation services to either help you fill out your forms or give you detailed and all-inclusive solutions. You also have the option of running tax software on your laptop. Of course, if you're enough of a pro, you could simply just head for the IRS website and start filling out forms.

What Materials do you need?

You need to gather all the relevant information and forms next. Forms will usually include W2 for all your income services. Your company should send it to you directly. If they don't, send them a reminder to do so. Individuals collecting social security benefits will require a SSA-1099, and those receiving other government benefits will need a 1099-G form. If you don't know what forms you need, consult a tax advisor or simply look up online resources for help.

Some other materials that are needed include Social Security numbers for you and your entire family. You'll also need an Electronic Filing PIN, a record of your income, your bank account and routing numbers, and finally your AGI (adjusted gross income) from the previous year.

Get Your Receipts and Records for Charitable Contributions Together.

When it comes to receipts, you can either claim the standard deduction, or itemize personal deductions. The latter involves a lot more work, but can result in greater write-offs. Itemizing may best be performed through professional services. If you're itemizing, get together all your receipts for deductible expenses Itemizing deductions for donations to charity require specific records. You'll probably need a written acknowledgement from the charity you donated to, so if you don't have one, get in touch with them.

What's your filing status?

The filing status helps the IRS determine the deductions and credits you qualify for, and more importantly, what your standard deduction amount and taxes owed are. An individual's filing status can be single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Look up the criteria for each filing status to know which one you fit.

If You are Using a Preparer...

Find a preparer as soon as possible in order to avoid complications down the road. Ensure that your tax preparer is a licensed professional and authorized to prepare tax returns. Make an appointment with your preparer and discuss all the important aspects timely to avoid problems later on.

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