8 tax hacks from an expert — in case you waited ’til the last minute to file your taxes
Ah, tax season — always there to remind us what stress really feels like. For all you Last-Minute Lucys out there, let this be your friendly reminder to start sooner rather than later. With the tax deadline (April 17th) quickly approaching, it’s better to save yourself the added stress and get things rolling now (instead of on the evening of April 16th). But sometimes getting a late start on our taxes is unavoidable. And for those of us running to catch up, Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA at TurboTax, has come to our rescue. Greene-Lewis has shared her 8 last-minute tax hacks to help us get our taxes done.
Beginning the entire tax process is the first hump one needs to get over. Finding a chunk of time to sit down, without any distractions, and really focus on the task ahead is extremely important. Set aside time after dinner, on a weekend (gross — we know), or even wake up early to tackle a portion of the project before work. And then reward yourself with some chocolate because you deserve it, damnit!
Take these tax hacks from Greene-Lewis into serious consideration when you find that chunk of time. You might be able to save yourself a massive headache come the morning of April 17th.
1Get the right forms.
Gather all the documents you receive from employers like W-2s and 1099s, statements showing your student loan and mortgage interest, your family members’ social security numbers, and your receipts for deductible expenses.
"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 said.
2Set a deadline.
And try not to make the deadline April 17th. Greene-Lewis recommends you set an earlier deadline to avoid rushing and potentially missing a tax deduction or credit. “Also, you will miss the last minute Tax Day rush, and receive your refund faster,” Greene-Lewis added.
3Don’t rush through details.
“The most important tip for entering information: Take your time,” Greene-Lewis told us. She said that one of the most common errors people make on their taxes is entering the wrong Social Security numbers for family members and misspelling names.
Greene-Lewis adds, "Incorrectly inputting information is easy to avoid if you take your time and don't wait until the last minute."
4Remember what you did last year.
According to the IRS, about 75% of taxpayers take the standard deduction. But including more receipts could push you over the standard deduction and decrease your tax liability, Greene-Lewis said.
Remember to include money used for expenses, “like previous state tax liability paid, job search expenses, summer day camp — even the cost of moving a pet may save you money on taxes,” Greene-Lewis added. And charitable contributions can also be included in your tax deduction, so make sure you keep track and report anything you’ve donated within the year.
5E-file with direct deposit.
If you’re expecting a tax refund, set up an e-file with direct deposit account through the IRS. This way, you’ll get your money faster — and who wouldn’t want that?
6Still file even if previous taxes are owed.
As the old saying goes, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” So even if you still owe taxes from last year, you’re still on the hook and expected to pay everything you owe. Luckily, there are avenues you can go down to aid your pay-off process.
"You can ask the IRS for an installment agreement when you file your taxes," Greene-Lewis said. "The installment agreement will allow you to pay your tax debt over six years."
7If you’re self-employed, include estimated tax payments and potential tax deductions.
Make sure you keep track of your estimated tax payments so you can enter estimated taxes when you file. And if you’re a freelancer or working in the “on-demand economy,” as Greene-Lewis called it, you can use things like start-up costs, computers, and car expenses as business deductions.
8Remind yourself you aren’t alone.
Guys, everyone is in the same boat. Even if you have an accountant working for you, or your dad knows everything there is to know about taxes, filing is still stressful as heck!
Greene-Lewis said that if you decide to do your taxes with TurboTax, you can ask questions via their on-demand help-line where you’re connected to a CPA or Enrolled Agent who can help you out. And keeping things digital can lower the stress of all those papers and forms flying about.
You can do this — we can all do this! There’s still time to use these tax hacks to get your taxes squared away, so act now to avoid the aggravation later.