Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," and tax season is in full swing! For some of us, filing our taxes is just one more thing to check off our to-do list. But for others, a maximum refund can be a major budget boost for families that can help pay for education, a down payment on a home or build a savings account. That’s why accuracy and preparedness are key in making the most of filing your taxes. Luckily, there are plenty of tools –and free services for those who are eligible-- to help make the process easier. Check out these helpful tips to get you started.
Organize the Paperwork
First, you’ll need to make sure you have all of the necessary documents ready to go. They are a few key documents, such as your W-2 from your employer, that contain the majority of your filing information. You’re also going to need ID, your social security number, your spouse’s social security number (if married) and any dependent’s social security numbers.
Show me the Receipts!
You’ll also need to make sure you have any receipts handy that could lead to a deduction. Be sure to save any and all receipts from medical expenses, travel to and from work, moving costs, charitable donations or loan interest payments. There are plenty of deductions that help you get the most out of your return. If you haven’t been saving your receipts, start a folder now for next year’s return.
With a new tax season comes a new opportunity for scammers and identity thieves, so be prepared. File early, never accept calls or emails to discuss your return, use well known and established tax preparers or online services and beware of unrealistic promises from tax preparers. Click here for more tips on avoiding tax scams.
Free Websites and Services
Once you have the paperwork in order, you’ll be ready to start the filing process. But why pay a tax preparer when there are free tax prep services available that make submitting your tax return simple?
- United Way has a simple, easy and free way to file your taxes. Through software powered by H&R Block, MyFreeTaxes.com helps you to input your data and the scans all of your eligible returns for accuracy, and has IRS-certified professionals standing by to answer any questions.
- Through United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, families with an income of $54,000 or less and individuals with an income of $20,000 or less can access an IRS-certified tax preparer at any one of more than 30 sites currently available throughout the region. VITA is free, confidential and guaranteed to help clients get the most from their returns. VITA sites are open throughout tax season.
To learn more about VITA or to find out where you can find our VITA sites in PA and NJ, click here.