Tax season: it’s not exactly every American’s favorite time of year. But what if there were a few ways to make the whole thing less of a burden? What if you could turn paying taxes into a more positive experience? Here are four tips for making your tax season a little less stressful:
Start preparing early. Part of what makes tax time so chaotic is not just the feeling of panic that comes with being unprepared, but the dread of getting everything together in order to file. Keep specific folders and records throughout the year, and formulate a plan for how you want to file. (Do you want to hire an accountant or file yourself? Is filing electronically the right route for you?) The more prepared you are now, the less anxiety you’ll feel once tax season rolls around.
Get informed on deductions and systems that can help you. Many Americans don’t realize they can actually e-file their taxes for free, or exactly how many different kinds of deductions are available to them. Independent contractors (whether you’re a freelance photographer or a dog walker) not only take a slightly different route to file, but they have a wide variety of deductible expenses they may not be aware of. Even a few last-minute contributions to your health savings account (HSA) or IRA before filing can lower your total bill. Get educated throughout the year and come tax season, the process will be a breeze!
Be wary of scams and hackers. If you choose to file electronically, do so through a secure Internet connection. Avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots where your personal information is at risk of being swiped by others in the network. Scammers have even been known to reach out by phone, claiming back taxes and threatening arrest if immediate action isn’t taken. Don’t be fooled by these kinds of claims until you have verified the origin of the call; keep in mind that some scammers are so thorough, they may already know your social security number. Remember that the IRS will always contact you first by mail, and never by email, text message or social media.
Feeling like you won’t make the deadline? File an extension. Avoid late penalties and give yourself ample time by filing for an extension. If you owe money, you’ll be required to make an estimate on what you owe and pay the balance by April 15, but your filing deadline will be moved to October 15. You can file for an extension by mail, phone or online.
Tax season will probably never be your favorite time of year, but don’t let it get the best of you. Prepare throughout the year, get educated on everything from deductions to potential scams, and when in doubt, file an extension. If you run into trouble, never hesitate to consult a professional. After all, why be shy when it comes to your own money?
Author, Jeff Watson wants others to love math as much as he does. He thinks strong math skills are needed in order to fully understand the world around us. He created DataRangers.org to offer resources, games, and web-based calculators to help people of all ages battle their math fears.