Prepare your paperwork. Dig out and dust off last year’s tax return. This is especially important because to file online, you need to sign your tax return electronically. This requires a self-selected PIN from last year. You can use the Adjusted Gross Income total from 2009. If you are filing for the first time and need a PIN, it’s a simple process.
Find your Social Security or Tax ID number as well as the SSN of any dependant children you are claiming.
You will need the W-2 forms your employer mailed to you. These forms are legally required to be postmarked by Jan. 31. If you don’t receive them, contact your employer. You can’t fill out your taxes without them. You need one per employer.
Gather documentation from the return year’s expenses including: college tuition, fees, books, equipment, housing costs, transportation, student loan and interest information. If you pay a daycare or babysitter you will need the Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number. It is a good idea to keep track of all college costs and receipts in a manila envelope.
Keep an electronic trail of costs. By using your ATM or debit card for all purchases listed above, avoid cash and credit cards. This helps at tax time to tally costs and if you lose receipts, you still have access to your bank statements. Speaking of banks, the last thing you need is a personal check. The bottom of the check has your bank’s routing number, followed by your personal account number. If you want that tax return in hand as quickly as possible, E-file and use the direct deposit option.
Claim zero. If you’re not happy with your tax return and you prefer to have more money taken out of your checks so that next year’s return is larger, claim zero on the W-4 form your employer has you fill out upon hire. You can ask them to change it at any time. When you file your taxes at the end of the year, claiming yourself is one exemption. At this point, you will have overpaid your share of taxes. This makes your return seem like a personal savings bank that you cannot gain access to in a moment of impulse.
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