Saturday, March 9, 2013

Start Filing Your Tax Return With These 6 Steps

IRS Form W-9
IRS Form W-9 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Neda Jafarzadeh, a financial analyst with NerdWallet Investing. NerdWallet helps consumers make better financial decisions and compare total costs to find the best broker for their needs. 

If you haven’t already started preparing your 2012 tax returns, you will want to get started as the April 15th deadline is fast approaching. To get started, consider the following six tips: 

Tip 1: Know If You Need to File

If you aren’t sure whether you need to be filing a tax return for 2012, the IRS has a page that helps you decide whether or not you need to be filing. If you’ve decided that you do not need to file a tax return, keep in mind that you won’t be able to take advantage of the various credits that would otherwise be available to you. For example, if you made less than $50,270 in 2012, you may quality for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or if you were a college student in 2012 or your dependent was a student, you may be eligible to receive the American Opportunity Tax Credit. 

Tip 2: Taxable vs. Nontaxable Income

While most types of earned income is subject to taxation, other types such as child support payments, gifts, inheritances and welfare benefits, are not. In addition, keep in mind that if you received a refund, credit or offset from the state, you may be required to include that as income even if you did not receive a Form 1900-G. To learn more about what income is subject to taxation, check Publication 525 on the IRS page. 

Tip 3: Finding Forms and Publications

There are numerous ways you can get the forms you need to file your tax return. One way is it get the forms online or by phone if you call 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) between 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday and request that they be mailed to you. You can even find the forms at your local post office or public library. 

Tip 4: Don’t Get Scammed

Tax scams are more common than you might think and the IRS has gone to great lengths to educate the public on recognizing and reporting these scams. If you aren’t sure whether you’ve fallen victim to a scam, the IRS has set up case scenarios to help you identify common scams, usually involving phone scams or identity theft. If you know you have fallen victim to a scam, you can use Form 3949-A to report it to the IRS. 

Tip 5: Get Help

If you are planning on using a DIY tax software, make sure you read customer reviews for the tool to see if your needs will be appropriately satisfied. NerdWallet also ran a comparison of the top two softwares available H&R Block and TurboTax, so feel free to reference that resource as well. If you plan to hire a professional tax preparer, do check his qualifications by asking for his Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN). 

Tip #6: Use Tax Credits Available to Parents

If you are a parent, be sure to look into the tax credits that are available to you like the Child and Dependent Tax Credit. You should be eligible to receive this credit if you have a child under the age of 13 and had to pay for a caretaker while you went to work or while you looked for work.

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