Tips on Doing Your Own Taxes

If you would like to do your own taxes, you will be happy to know that the process is actually simpler than most people think. Paying tax accountants to prepare your taxes may not be the best option especially if your finances aren’t complicated. To do your own taxes, you will need three things; accurate records of your annual income, some basic knowledge of the country’s tax code, and adequate time to work on your returns. The following is a step-to-step guide on doing your own taxes. If you have any outstanding questions, make sure to post your question here.

Income Tax Forms
Income Tax Forms (Photo credit: Manchester Library)

Tax Filing Tips
1
Keep all your receipts for the year in an organized manner. Ideally, you should have a binder or a dedicated filing system for keeping all your tax-related documents. When it comes to doing your taxes, having everything neatly organized can be very helpful.

2
Go over your expenses and decide whether to itemize or claim the standard deduction. You can do the calculations on your own and use the higher amount. You may want to consider taking the standard deduction if you do not have high medical costs, or if you don’t pay real estate taxes or a high mortgage interest rate.

3
There are many tax forms, but the 1040 is the most popular. You will need to attach the W-2 form from your employer to show your annual income. If you have done some freelance work outside your regular working hours, you can declare it under business income if it exceeds $400.

4
For accuracy and simplicity, consider filing online or using a tax software. For instance, you can use free software like TurboTax and TaxAct online. The USAA, as well as many other banks, offers eFile services free of charge. Therefore, you may want to check with your bank first to see if this service is offered.

5
When filing your taxes, all you need to do is enter your personal details, annual income, tax credits and deductions into the appropriate tax forms or software. You can choose to send the W-2 form together with other forms, or enter the information in the corresponding boxes when eFiling. Tax forms usually have instructions to guide users on how to add and subtract different entries as required. Be sure to use a calculator for accuracy.

6
After submitting your tax returns electronically or through mail, you will need to enter the details of your bank account for withdrawal or direct deposit. While you can simply write a check to the IRS, this is not a popular option. After filing, you will receive an email from the IRS confirming receipt of returns.

Warnings and Tips

If your finances are complicated, be sure to consult with tax accountants.

Be sure to watch out for red flags because they can make your tax returns more likely to be selected for auditing.

Did You Know About These Tax Changes?

By the start of 2010, President Obama proposed a number of tax changes for 2011. It was until the end of that year that eleventh hour tax changes were approved and signed into the law. While many of us are well aware of the latest celebrity break ups and hook-ups, only a few seem to know about these tax changes.

It pays to known about tax rates and any changes made regarding these taxes. It gives you a better idea of what you are going pay and how much you can save. Believe it or not, knowing about the tax rates and changes can greatly help in efficient financial planning.

In the 2011 bill, a few changes are made, a few things remain unchanged and a few temporary ones will expire in 2012. For better or for worse, these changes will affect individuals and businesses in one way or another. Let’s take a look at what these changes are.

– The lowest bracket remains 10%, this is a temporary extension till 2012. Otherwise it would have gone up to 15%. 25%, 28%, 33% and 35 % tax bracket for individuals is also temporarily extended. The current law related to these tax brackets was going to expire in 2011. If it wasn’t extended the current brackets would have gone up to 28%, 31%, 36% and 39% respectively.

    – Standard deduction rates remain largely the same. For a single taxpayer, the amount of deductions is $ 5,800. For married couple filing jointly, it is $11,600. Senior citizens will get an additional standard deduction of $ 1,150.

    – The personal exemption amount for last year was $3,650 and this year it is raised to $3,700.

    – Extensions are also made on deduction of state and local sales tax and deduction of private mortgage insurance premiums. Through 2011, state and local sales tax can be deducted instead of state and local income tax. Mortgage insurance premiums will also continue to be deducted by homeowners.

    – The Alternate Minimum Tax exemption for 2011 is $48,450 for single tax payers and $74,450 for those filling jointly. Married couple filing separately will have to pay $37,225.

    – 2011 tax changes also include a temporary repeal on Personal Exemption phase-out. This will be a good news for high-income tax payers. Personal exemptions of high-income tax payer will be reduced to adjusted gross income increases.

      – Pease limitations are also temporarily repealed. According to Pease provisions, itemized deduction is reduced by 3% at the top of the brackets for high-income tax payers.

        – Capital gains and dividends will also remain low through out the year.

          – Under the temporary tax cut on Employee payroll tax, the percentage is reduced to 4.2% from 6.2 in 2010. The rate for self employed individuals is reduced from 12.4% to 10.4%.

          – For teachers a $250 deduction is also introduced as a deduction for states sales taxes in lieu of state income tax deductions.

          This is a guest post from Albert Harris, contributing writer at CreditDonkey.com.  Avoid other costly mistakes in 2011 by reading our credit card tips.