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It’s that time of year! No, no, not the holidays. We’re talking about preparing for tax season *sigh*. So many questions can come up when those W-2s, 1099s, and more start showing up in your mailbox — knowing what filing method to choose and where to begin can be overwhelming. From those “free” scams that aren’t really free in the end to working with a tax preparer, here’s everything you need to consider. 

Step 1: Getting Organized 

Before filing your taxes for the previous year, you need to gather all the required tax documentation. The list of items necessary to file your taxes should include some of, if not all, of the following items below. 

  • Proof of any charitable donations  
  • Your social security number and those of your dependents 
  • W-2 and 1099 forms 
  • Retirement account contributions 
  • Property tax and mortgage interest 
  • Your tax return from the year prior 
  • Medical invoices that were not reimbursed 
  • Local and state tax payments 
  • Educational expenses (college, student loan payments) 
  • Receipts for any deductible expenses 

Step 2: Selecting Your Filing Method 

This next step is the most important step when preparing for tax season. Choosing the wrong filing method for your unique needs could cost you wasted time, money, and improperly filed tax documents. No thanks! 

There are three primary ways you can file your taxes:

  • Filling out an IRS Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR by hand 
  • Using an online taxing filing program, like TurboTax or H&R Block
  • Hiring a tax preparer to file your taxes for you

Here’s our rule of thumb for selecting the right filing method for you. If you decide to fill out your documents by hand and mail them in, we recommend that you have a good understanding of tax documentation and that your taxes themselves aren’t complex. 

When selecting the online route, just know that filing does cost a fee, even if the program itself is “free” to use. While this is an inexpensive way to file your taxes, these online programs work best with simplified returns that don’t involve copious amounts of paperwork and deductions. 

Lastly, if you’re preparing for tax season with a tax preparer, you’ll save yourself lots of time, but the cost is much higher. Someone dealing with multiple filings, deductions, or just little to no knowledge on tax filing would benefit from the experience of working with a tax preparer. 

Step 3: Receiving Your Tax Return 

If you’re looking for that tax return money to show up as soon as possible, we would not advise that you file your taxes via snail mail. The IRS takes about 6-8 weeks to process paper returns. However, your refund is typically processed in 2-3 weeks if you file online. Another way to cut down waiting time is to opt for your tax return to be sent through direct deposit instead of a check in the mail. 

Make Preparing for Tax Season as Easy as 1, 2, 3! 

Feeling clueless as tax season is approaching? White River Credit Union is here for you as you navigate the jungle of tax documentation. To enjoy our free learning resources, click here to explore everything from tax filing to credit reports. 

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