2011 marks the first year I will independently file my taxes. As a college graduate, and gaining ground towards my financial independence every day, it seems appropriate for me to learn the ominous process of filing federal and state taxes for myself. Just days ago, I had no idea where to begin, what I had to do, or how to do it. I received my W-2 recently, and though the information seemed self-explanatory, it didn’t offer any information regarding what to do with it. I felt uninformed and ignorant, as if I had missed out on vital knowledge everyone else seemed to have. This, however, is certainly not the case, especially in my age group. I began to do a lot of research on both federal and state filing processes. I googled, asked more experienced adults, and ultimately accumulated a list of some resources I found to be valuable and informative. Here is a list of five of the most useful tax resources I found and used:
1. IRS Tax Assistance Hotline. (1-800-829-1040).
Believe it or not, the IRS actually makes an attempt to reach out to taxpayers with questions on virtually anything tax-related. This service is completely free, and after a very brief pre-recorded menu, you will actually be transferred to a real person. You may have to wait on hold for 10-15 minutes, but it’s worth the wait if you have several questions to ask. All phone assistants are trained IRS volunteers, and in my experience were very helpful!
H&R Block is offering FREE filing for anyone with simple tax returns (1040EZ). This includes you if your filing status is Single, you claim no dependents, don’t itemize, have no mortgage, and have an annual income below $100,000. This opportunity is truly a great one if you generally pay a professional to file your return, and you meet the requirements above. Even better, you get to sit down with someone in person, in case that’s something that you’re more comfortable with.
No doubt, you’ve seen Mint appear on almost every money-management and finance tool list you’ve ever seen. That’s because it is just that good. If you’re comfortable with Mint’s privacy policies and security measures, there’s no doubt it’s one of the best resources on the web. Even now during tax season, Mint has partnered with TurboTax to offer a few helpful widgets. You can estimate your tax refund by entering some basic information. It also allows you the option to file with TurboTax through Mint.
1040? 1040A? 1040EZ? With three different 1040 forms, and many more to complete, I wasn’t sure which form was best for me! This tool proved useful as I tried to figure out which form was the most suitable for my filing needs. If you’re in the same boat, and filing for the first time this year, be sure to check out this handy tool.
I am not including this because I lack a fifth resource (trust me, there are plenty more), but because some of the most important information I received while learning about filing came from these people. Many adults have been filing their tax returns for years, possibly decades. Though the process may not seem so transparent to a beginner’s eye, it is usually done like clockwork by older adults. They can possibly serve as the best and most personal guides as you learn about your tax responsibilities, so don’t forget that they’re there!
If you’ve filed on your own before, what tax tools have you used?