How to File Your Own Tax Return

how to file your own taxes

April 15th is a few months away and you know what that means. It’s tax time. Let’s face it, most of us hate tax time and are filled with dread. Though doing your taxes isn’t exactly on your “fun” list, they are unfortunately a requirement for “adulting.” If you have regular 9 to 5 employment, it’s likely you can file your own tax return without too much hassle. Here’s how you can file your own tax return.

Get your paperwork in order

Filing your taxes can be a lot like cooking. You can do it without a recipe or knowing what ingredients you’ll use. But it’s better if you have a plan and get everything ready first.

Same with your tax return. Before sitting down to file your taxes, get your paperwork in order so you don’t have to start and stop the process a thousand times.

You’ll want to get your:

  • W-2, for any part-time or full-time work

  • 1099, for any independent contract work

  • 1099-INT, which shows how much interest you earned at your bank

  • 1098-E, how much student loan interest you paid to your loan servicer

  • 1095-A, if you have health insurance from the exchange

These are some of the basic, most common forms that you will get. You may have other tax forms coming your way, so be on the lookout.

If your forms are late, follow-up and make sure your address is correct. If you moved or quit jobs, you may have not updated your address which could cause a delay.

Another thing to note is that if you worked a side hustle and made less than $600 you won’t receive a 1099. However, you still have to report those earnings to Uncle Sam.

Create a pile with all of these forms organized. If you’re expecting a refund, go to your bank’s website and get your routing and account number so you can go with direct deposit to get your funds sooner.

Set a date

No matter how easy your tax situation is, doing your taxes isn’t something you can exactly breeze through. You want to set a time and date and block it for doing your taxes. You don’t want any interruptions or to feel rushed. Set aside 2-3 hours, to be safe. It may take you one hour or less but it could be more. The key is to be able to do it in your own time, in a relaxed fashion so you don’t make any mistakes.

You can even make it a date date and light some candles and grab a glass (or bottle) of wine (if you can handle important work like taxes without getting sloshed!). Anything to help you relax, enjoy and reward yourself for properly adulting.

Choose the right program

Here’s some seriously good news. There are so many tax filing programs online that can help guide you step-by-step through your taxes. All you need is the paperwork mentioned above to go through the program and file your return.

Some tax filing programs include:

Many of these program allow you to file for free for both federal and state. It should be noted though that these tax programs can have limitations for the “free” options. So if your tax situation is fairly straightforward, you’re in luck. If your tax situation is a bit more complicated — for example, you moved to a different state, switched jobs, and had a full-time job and side hustle income — you might have to pay more.

To find the best option for you, go through their site, check out Google Reviews and even ask your friends and family.

File your tax return

Once you have all of your paperwork and have chosen the right tax filing software and have your time allotted, it’s time to file your tax return!

Don’t try to rush the process as the tax software programs are working to try to get you the most deductions and credits. Also, one simple mistake can cost you if you’re not careful. Sit down and go through one of these tax filing software programs to file your own tax return.

Once you’re done, make sure you get the confirmation and know when to get your refund (if you expect one). You want to have everything in writing. After that, file away your tax paperwork somewhere that you keep your other important, financial documents.

If you end up getting a refund, try a “past, present, future” split. So 33% goes to debt (past), 33% fun (present) and 33% goes to retirement or other investments. That way you can do a little bit of everything with your refund.

Have any specific questions or feel like your tax situation is more complicated? Talk to a tax professional!

Caitlin Lyttle