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Tax Filing Basics

Before beginning your tax return, here are a few things you should know to make preparing and filing your return easier and less stressful. 

Social Security Numbers 

It is important that you have the correct Social Security Number and date of birth for each person you will claim as an exemption on your return. If each name, Social Security Number, and date of birth do not match exactly when you file the return, the IRS will reject your return and ask you to submit the correct information.

Recommended Records 

Preparing your tax return will be easier if the records you need are organized and readily available:

  • Proof of identification
  • Social Security Numbers for you, your spouse, and dependents
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse, and dependents
  • Wages and earnings statements: Forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, etc.
  • Interest and dividends statements from banks, brokerages, etc.
  • A copy of last year's tax return
  • Bank routing and account numbers
  • The amount you paid for childcare and the childcare provider's tax identification number
  • Receipts for charitable donations

Preparing Your Return 

You can choose to prepare your return yourself or get assistance from a qualified tax professional. If you choose to prepare your return yourself, consider using a tax software program to assist you. Tax software can make the preparation easier, help you understand all the credits and deductions you are qualified to receive, and allow you to e-file your return. Online Tax Preparation lets you prepare and e-file your taxes, both federal and state. 

Hiring a Professional

If you choose to hire a tax professional to prepare your tax return, choose carefully. It is important to choose a qualified professional, because you  are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your return. Before signing your return, review it to ensure that all information is correct, that you understand the entries, and are comfortable with the accuracy of your return. Never sign an unfinished return, and always ask your tax professional to sign the return in your presence. 

Free Tax Preparation Assistance 

If you cannot afford a professional tax preparer or you need help preparing your own return, you can visit an IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site. Each VITA site has volunteers who are trained to help you figure special credits, prepare basic tax returns, and e-file your return. VITA sites are for taxpayers making $49,000 or less per year. To locate a VITA site near you, call (800) 906-9887.