You’ve heard the saying about death and taxes – they’re pretty much the only things you can be 100% certain will affect you. And, they’re both a source of high anxiety for many people. For the most part, you can’t control the former. You can control the latter to some extent. Keep the following in mind, and you will be fine!
1: Do Get Organized. What invokes anxiety in many people is the sheer volume of paper that’s involved in filing taxes. You will feel much calmer if you approach the tasked with a checklist of all the documents you’ll need to complete your taxes; a folder containing all of your W-2s, 1099s, mortgage interest statements, etc.; a different folder with any receipts you’ve compiled; a folder with receipts from charitable donations; and a printout from your broker listing the price you paid for any stocks or funds you sold.
2: Don’t Procrastinate. The deadline to file your tax return is April 17. Don’t wait until April 16. Or April 15. Actually, start well before April so you’ll have time to gather all the documents you need – and have time to react if you discover any errors on your tax forms or find you’re missing important paperwork.
3: Don’t Multi-task. Doing your taxes is not fun, but it’s necessary. If you are intent on doing them yourself rather than hiring a tax preparer, make an appointment with yourself to buckle down and get it done. Block off a period of time in a quiet place where you can dig in without being interrupted or having your attention wander. You’ll finish more quickly and reduce the likelihood of making mistakes – that could cost you money.
4: Do Triple Check Your Deductions. Failing to claim deductions to which you’re entitled is like throwing money away! While sticking with the standard deduction is easier, itemizing your deductions could be well worth the hassle. This is especially true if you are a home owner and/or self-employed. Miscellaneous expenses (such as expenses related to a job search, professional dues, and car expenses if you use your vehicle to perform your job are deductible if their combined value is more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.
5: Don’t Stress! Most of the people you know or even encounter walking down the street have to do their taxes, just like you do. Will they all complete their tax documents accurately? No. Do your due diligence and submit your tax forms on time. If you make a mistake, you definitely won’t be alone. IRS employees get a bad rap, but at the end of the day they know that humans are not immune from human error. As long as you’re not intentionally trying to avoid paying what you owe, you will be fine!