This post was reviewed/updated Friday, March 24, 2017
Are you filing a federal tax return for the first time? Welcome to the world inhabited by 153 million other Americans.
It can be scary. But it doesn't have to be if you follow these six steps a novice taxpayer can take to successfully make it through their first filing season.
1. Get organized: This is something you'll need for all the future tax filing years you have before you. You'll be glad you established a good organizational habit from the get-go.
2. Talk with your parents: If you are a student looking to file your first tax return, don't touch a 1040 until you talk with parents first. Y'all need to sort out dependency issues, as well as who would benefit more from claiming education tax breaks for school costs they helped pay.
3. Decide how to file: Do you send it a paper form? Nah. You're young and technologically savvy so you're at least going to use tax software. Check out Free File. This year 14 tax software companies have partnered with the Internal Revenue Service to offer free online tax prep and e-filing. But maybe you want personal help on filling out your first-ever return. That's cool. Just make sure you choose the appropriate -- and a reputable -- tax preparer.
4. Don't leave money on the table: Again, this is something even veteran taxpayers need to heed. But for 1040 newbies, make sure you don't overlook any tax breaks. That includes tax-saving workplace benefits, such as 401(k)s or medical spending accounts.
5. Don't procrastinate: Putting things off until the last minute can cause added problems if you run into problems or have unexpected questions when you do start filing.
6. Don't be in such a hurry: On the other hand, if you get in too big a hurry to finish you tax filing you could make a costly mistake.
You can find additional info on these six newbie filer tips in my story on this topic.
And once again, we long-time taxpayers (and Uncle Sam) extend our warmest welcome to our club, where the motto is tax misery loves company!
You also might find these items of interest:
- Filing patience can prevent a big tax mistake
- Important January tax dates, deadlines
- Tax breaks for minimum wage workers