Though using an accountant or a professional tax preparer has some conveniences, preparing your own taxes allows you to maintain full control over the process. You can work at your own pace and save the money you would have paid to a tax preparer. As such, many people choose to do their own taxes each year.
Doing your own taxes should begin with preparation before you even sit down with tax documents and receipts. First, make certain that you have all the necessary forms and schedules. In the United States, you can request the forms and schedules you need from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by phone or online.
You may want to consider using tax preparation software to prepare your taxes on your home computer. If you use tax software, you won't have to worry about securing the proper forms. Tax forms and schedules are typically included with the software. If necessary, you can even download updated forms over the internet and import them into the program.
The next step, as you prepare to do your own taxes, is to make certain that you have all the necessary tax documents at hand. Gather your 1099s, W-2s, dividend statements, and other tax-related documents, and check them for errors. It is a good idea to do this early, as waiting for corrected documents can take some time. For certain documents, such as a W-2, you may be able to correct the information yourself and have the provider of the form correct your official record. It’s a good idea, however, to check with the IRS before doing so.
Last year's tax return is a good resource to have handy as you prepare to do your own taxes. By taking a look at last year’s information and deductions, you can get a good idea of where to start in the current year. Taking a look at last year's return can also help you to determine whether any vital documents are missing. Basically, you can take note of what you used last year and make sure you have it this year.
Once you are sure that your tax documents are in order, gather the supplies you need to prepare your taxes. Make certain to obtain a calculator and several sharpened pencils, as well as some scrap paper. If you're using software to prepare your taxes, you may not need to perform as many calculations. However, it is wise to keep such supplies handy for double-checking figures and adding receipts together quickly.
The last thing you should do as you prepare to do your own taxes is to browse the IRS website for tax news or changes. You may also wish to use the site to search for information about the proper way to handle certain tax situations, such as money paid for childcare. Once you've updated your tax knowledge a bit, you are ready to sit down to prepare your tax return.