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Your Tax Prep Playbook: Everything You Need to Know to Prepare for Tax Season

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By: Gary Ruesch
Inbound Service Manager

February 21, 2024

Tax season is a busy and stressful time. While the deadline to file your taxes may seem far away, getting organized and over the filing finish line can be a tall task. Whether you’re a seasoned tax filer or a newcomer, staying organized and well-informed can help make the process smoother.

Start by getting organized

The initial step is to gather all essential information needed to kickstart your tax preparation journey. This includes W-2s, 1099s, receipts for deductible expenses, and any other financial documents. You should also have your social security number, bank information, and other key data ready. Establishing a dedicated folder to organize and store these documents effectively in a single location is a key step that sets the stage for an efficient tax preparation process.

Understanding how your taxes are determined

The government calculates your tax liability by dividing your taxable income into segments, also known as tax brackets. These brackets also determine your tax rate. One advantage of the system is that regardless of the bracket you fall in, you’re not taxed at that rate on your entire income.

In the U.S., the tax system allows individuals with higher taxable incomes to face higher federal income tax rates, while those with lower incomes face lower rates. It’s important to remember that federal income taxes are only part of the taxation landscape, and you also have tax liabilities on the state and local front, as well.

Assess changes from the last year

In case of name changing or relocation during the tax year, it’s important to notify the appropriate authorities, such as the IRS and Social Security Administration. If your name has changed, the first step is to inform the Social Security Administration. If you are unable to do so, it could result in delays when your tax return is being processed. Following this, you’ll need to apply for a new Social Security card by completing Form S-5, titled Application for a Social Security Card.1 For address changes, the IRS provides various methods to update your information with the agency.

The support of a professional tax preparer may be necessary

As your financial life gets more complex, or if you want to save yourself time, you might want to consider hiring a professional to help file your taxes.

The IRS website2 offers guidance on selecting a tax professional, including insight on credentials. You may opt for someone you can meet in person, or you may find success in virtual options, such as H&R Block3. You can start for free by uploading last year’s return (Form 1040), and the preparers are able to transfer it for you securely.

Filing for an extension (if you need more time)

You can request an extension if you cannot meet the April 15, 2024, tax filing deadline. This can be done by submitting form 48684 to the IRS before the due date, which will provide —a valid extension until October 15, 2024.

There are various avenues available to request an extension. You can opt for the IRS Free File program to file for free, or you can choose to mail Form 4868 directly to the IRS. However, it's important to note that while an extension grants you an additional six months to submit your tax return, it does not extend the deadline for tax payments. Therefore, you must still pay your taxes by the original due date.

Getting ready for tax season doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By incorporating these additional details into your tax preparation process, you can ensure that you’re taking full advantage of available deductions and credits, minimizing your tax liability, and maximizing your potential refund.

This information is for informational purposes only, is intended to provide general guidance, and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person's circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition.

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