It’s already April, which means Tax Day — April 17 — is right around the corner. And if you have yet to start organizing your pay stubs and W-2’s, you’re not alone. According to Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA at TurboTax, there are millions of others out there like you that wait until the last minute. So the seasoned CPA has rounded up some tried and true tax tips for people prone to procrastinating. Trust us when we say you’ll want to keep these in your back pocket come filing time.
1. Set a personal deadline. Just because taxes are due on April 17 doesn’t mean you should wait until the night before to get started. As tempting as that may sound (we get it — you’re busy!), the CPA recommends setting a personal deadline (e.g., the week before) to avoid the last-minute scramble. If anything, use that refund as motivation to get the job done, to get your money back sooner.
2. Put your paperwork in one place. Before doing your taxes, ensure you have everything you need. This can include everything from W-2s and 1099s, to social security numbers and mortgage info. When in doubt, a good rule-of-thumb to follow is to account for anything you got paid for: “You must report all your sources of income to the IRS on your tax return, even if you didn’t receive a 1099-MISC form for work you performed in 2017,” Greene-Lewis says.
3. Pay attention to the details. As important as it is to be efficient (especially at the last minute!), it’s even MORE important to avoid errors. “One of the most common mistakes taxpayers make when rushing to meet the tax deadline is gathering incorrect Social Security numbers for their children and spouses, and even misspelling their own names,” says Greene-Lewis. Proofing and second checks are *everything.*
4. Don’t settle for a standard deduction. Even if it’s what you did last year, a standard deduction shouldn’t be your default go-to. Greene-Lewis says, “a few additional receipts may push you over the standard deduction, further lowering your tax liability.” Consider new factors like job search expenses, charitable contributions, and even moving fees when filing in 2018. Luckily, TurboTax will help keep you on your toes when it comes to many of these.
5. Provide your bank account number. Elect to e-file by setting up direct deposit to get your money sooner, recommends the CPA. “The IRS expects to issue nine out of 10 federal tax refunds within 21 days or less of acceptance with e-file and direct deposit,” she says. To get refunded the electronic way, be sure to provide your bank account number to get funds placed directly in your account.
6. Ask for an installment agreement. If you owe $$$ at tax time, consider asking for an installment agreement that’ll allow you to pay your debt over the course of six years. Note: You may still be eligible for a tax refund, which you can only receive once you call out the deductions as you file.
7. Consider your self-employment status. If you’re a freelancer, you may qualify for specific savings (score!). Consider things like costs for computers, transportation, or money spent on growing that dream biz of yours, which are all deductions you can take and save on.
8. Seek expert advice. If you’re confused about what items you qualify for, don’t sit there and struggle in silence. Talk with a CPA or advisor for your most pressing questions. Or consider services like TurboTax Live, which offer on-demand opportunities to connect with CPAs without ever leaving home (or waiting in line for that matter.) You’ll thank us later!
Are you already ahead of your taxes? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo.
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