It’s easy to see why the idea of filing your own taxes may be a daunting prospect. There are different forms with seemingly random numbers, countless tax codes written in minuscule fonts, and vast numbers of black and white pages. The sheer length of the 2013 edition of the Standard Federal Tax Reporter—nearly 74,000 pages—is enough to make anyone run in the opposite direction. Many Americans simply feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin.
There are steps you can take to feel more in control and informed. When you break it down—or have a professional break it down for you—it’s easy to see that doing your taxes doesn’t have to be intimidating.
Slow Down to Prevent Mistakes
Many people are afraid they might overlook a tax break. After the financial crisis of 2008, there are so many different credits available, with seemingly endless qualifying criteria. It’s natural to worry that you might miss an opportunity to save money.
Another reason that many taxpayers shy away from doing their own taxes is that they are concerned they will make a mistake that will cost them money. There is plenty of room for error, including something as simple as filing the wrong tax form, choosing the wrong filing status, and other mistakes made when rushing through the process.
To prevent errors and missed opportunities, simply slow down. Doing your taxes is essential to your financial well-being, so take your time and make sure everything is filled out correctly, and on the right form. Not sure what’s correct and what’s not? There are many resources at your fingertips to help you through the process.
Embrace Online Resources
Even with the countless pages on changing tax laws, it’s never been easier to complete your taxes. Using the Internet, you can most likely find the answer to any possible question. There is a high probability that someone else has already asked the same thing and that a knowledgeable person has answered it publicly. Although this method would probably work best for someone who already has an understanding of doing taxes and needs an answer to a specific question, even beginning taxpayers can learn a great deal by researching online.
The Smart Way to E-File
In today’s high-tech age, more than half of U.S. taxpayers file their returns electronically. However, there are still millions of people who file the traditional way. Many are worried about their financial information getting hacked or stolen. Although there are no guarantees, the IRS does take measures to prevent fraud and unauthorized access to information. You can help to prevent any issues by ensuring that your computer is secure and doesn’t have any viruses or vulnerable access points.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
There are many tax attorneys and finance professionals who can personally guide you through every step of calculating and filing your taxes. Their job is to prevent any costly mistakes, make sure you take advantage of all available credits and maximize your return. Rest assured that they have already been asked every question under the sun, no matter how “dumb” it may seem to you. A tax professional will reinforce that taxes are not something to fear, but an important component of financial stability.