Taxes may be one of the only certain things in life, but that doesn’t mean that filing them is easy. This is especially true if you are a young adult filing your first tax return. If you are single and earned an income greater than $10,000 in 2014, you are required to file a federal return. If it’s your first time filing taxes, you might be a little overwhelmed, but never fear. Here are 5 quick tips to help you file your taxes for the first time.
Every employer you worked for in 2014 should have sent you a W-2 wage statement, postmarked no later than January 31, 2015. This includes part-time, full-time, and temporary jobs, no matter how few hours you worked for the company. If you didn’t receive a W-2 by early February, contact your employer to make sure it wasn’t sent to the wrong address. For any work you completed as an independent contractor, you should have received a 1099 miscellaneous income statement. Make a habit of collecting all your pay stubs, earnings statements and other financial paperwork in one folder so that you’ll have everything you need come tax time.
Things can get slightly complicated when you earn enough money to file a return while still receiving more than half of your financial support from your parents. If they plan to claim you as a dependent, IRS rules don’t allow you to claim a personal exemption on your own tax return. In most cases, it makes financial sense for your parents to take the tax exemption, since they likely owe more in taxes than you do. However, you or they can speak to a tax accountant if you’re uncertain.
The IRS & most states currently require that you file your tax return electronically. However, many tax filers still elect to receive their refunds by being sent a check as opposed to depositing it directly into their bank account. Choosing a direct deposit shaves weeks off the time it takes to receive your refund. In order to file electronically, you will need to use tax software or hire a tax professional. The benefit of using software/tax professionals is that they find math errors and deductions you may have missed. Common deductions that new taxpayers overlook include charitable donations, job search expenses, and state and local sales tax paid. If you have children yourself or you’re filing as head of household, you qualify for even more tax credits.
If you are single, don’t own a home, have no dependents, and earn less than $100,000 a year, filing your return on the 1040EZ form makes your life a whole lot easier. If you choose to use tax software, the program should suggest this after completing its initial interview with you. You’re more likely to find free tax preparation programs when you file using the 1040EZ form.
Your federal and state tax forms for 2014 must be postmarked by Wednesday, April 15, 2015 to avoid paying a late penalty. If you have legitimate reasons for not getting your returns in by that date, you may be able to request an extension. It’s also important not to be in such a hurry to get this chore done that you speed through it and make costly mistakes. This is a common mistake for first-time filers, especially those who are expecting a refund.
If it’s your first time filing taxes, take your time, plan ahead, and consider using tax software to make your life easier. Remember: it’s always a good idea to ask a tax professional if you’re not sure about something. Good luck!