Tax season is upon us yet again. *sigh*
Last tax season is a bit of a blur for me… it dragged on and on due to delays and then there were tax changes and stimulus payments that caused questions, and at the end of it all I can’t say that it was memorable aside from being a mess. Thanks 2020!
So, here we are yet again at another year of figuring out who owes money (me? Uncle Sam?), and when to send it (or get it back!). And if you’re receiving money back there’s nothing more excruciating than sitting around wondering if your check was mailed, when it will arrive, and whether or not it was intercepted somewhere in between the IRS and your mailbox. We’re not tax experts, but we can speak to a few tips this tax season that amount to simple, darned-good advice.
First up? Get or Stay Organized
If you’re like me, you’re a generally organized person. Well…. let’s just say that my receipts aren’t all stuffed in a trash bag in the spare bedroom closet. How come every ‘80’s or ‘90’s sitcom had an episode where “the tax man” shows up to do an audit and the main character pulls out their trash bag, or shoe box full of receipts? Thankfully, come tax season, I can generally put my hands on all the important details I need to file my taxes.
How is that? It’s because I keep a file box handy with a file folder for every month of the year plus a separate hanging file for tax papers. So when the mail comes and there are monthly statements all over my kitchen peninsula I sort through it all and either put it into the shred bin or into my file box under the correct month. I also pull crumpled up receipts out of the bottom of my purse and out of the cup holders of my car once a week and file these into the monthly folders, just in case I need them. Never mind that the only ones I EVER need again are the ones that are mysteriously missing from the file box…
But I digress… just after January 1st arrives I also start sifting through the mail with a slightly different purpose. I look for mail pieces that specifically say “TAX” on the envelope so I can file them in the special folder. This makes them very easy to find in late February or early March when I need them. Also, now that so many things are available digitally I like to print it out immediately when I get the notice that it is ready. Then I add it to the file as well. This keeps me organized so that when the last document arrives (it’s always the same one!) I can pull it all together to prepare the return. A quick check in the glove box of our family vehicles for vehicle tax information and I have all the info I need to prepare my return quickly, and easily.
E-File with Direct Deposit
One side effect of the pandemic of 2020 is that the mail has gotten a little behind, and continues to struggle in catching up. Regular envelope mail can sometimes take up to two weeks to arrive at its destination, so if you’re not filing your tax return electronically you can add up to an extra month onto the process of getting your return back via snail mail. An e-file paired with a direct deposit makes the process quick and easy. Not to mention the money gets where it needs to go within a few days of finishing the return, which makes the whole “tax season” more like a tax weekend, or tax week.
Unless you’re an accountant…
Get Help Preparing Your Return
And that brings me to the final tip. If you’re dealing with complicated taxes… maybe you own a business or are in the military and have to file taxes in several different states, then it’s not a bad idea to consider getting a little help preparing and filing your return. Sometimes it’s worth the extra expense to have peace-of-mind in knowing that you have filed everything correctly. And an extra set of eyes can help you avoid common mistakes like an incorrect Social Security Number, misspelled name, math mistake or incorrect bank account number. These mistakes can cause delays in filing and extra headaches, which are avoidable if you’ve got someone helping with the process.
The best part about having an accountant handling your tax return is that they spend a considerable amount of time learning the ins and outs of the ever-changing tax code. And if you don’t have a simple return to file sometimes the benefit is just in hiring someone who already knows what they’re doing, so you don’t have to spend the time researching it.
Need more tax tips? Check out the IRS’s information Tax Tips page. They’ve got a whole bunch of tips for filing your 2020 taxes in addition to an archive of past tips to refer back to. Find their tips at: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-tax-tips
Best wishes for getting your tax returns filed in a timely manner this year!