6 Tips for Filing Your Taxes for the First Time

Doing your own taxes for the first time is a rite of passage, like graduating from college or buying your first car. The first time tax season rolls around as an adult, you’re likely to have a ton of questions. Discover six tips on how to file taxes for the first time with TrueIdentity®.

1. Decide if you need to file a tax return

A dependent making less than $6,300 per year does not have to file a tax return, per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However—even if you made less than $6,300—if you worked at a job where income tax was withheld, it’s still a good idea to file a return; there’s a chance the government may owe you money.

2. Gather up all your tax documents

Well before you sit down to do your taxes, you need to be prepared. Start gathering your necessary documents in January. Create a tax file and any time you receive tax-related paperwork in the mail or from an employer, place it in there. You’ll need (as applicable):

  • • A W-2 from any workplace where you received a salary in the calendar year prior (these should be sent out by January 31; if you don’t receive it by then, follow up with your employer)
  • • A 1099-MISC from any workplace where you were working as a contractor
  • • Statements of additional income (such as interest or other investment earnings)
  • • Form 1098-E, a statement of deductible student loan interest
  • • Records of contributions to an individual retirement account

3. Call Mom and Dad

If you’re a college student, there’s a chance your parents are still planning to claim you as a dependent, or possibly claim your college costs on their tax return. Sit down with your parents and go through your tax documents together in order to figure out the savviest way to file, remembering that dependents cannot file any exemptions. Most likely, if your parents are helping pay for your college, they’ll benefit from education tax breaks the most.

4. Figure out how you want to file

There are three ways to file your taxes: filling out forms by hand, submitting online, or getting help from an accountant or tax franchise operation. The cheapest way is to fill out the hard copy of the forms yourself, but there’s also a chance for more errors this way. However, if it’s your first time filing, it should be a relatively straightforward process. The 1040EZ form is a great place to start (but remember, if you fill out the 1040EZ form, you cannot claim any dependents of your own).

Also, find out if your campus participates Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program; it’s a great resource for free tax guidance.

5. Consider your tax deductions

You may qualify for a wide range of tax breaks that you’re not even aware of:

  • • State and local sales taxes
  • • Charitable contributions (paid through payroll deductions)
  • • Child and dependent care credit
  • • Job search expenses
  • • Earned income tax credit

6. Watch the calendar

Taxes aren’t something to leave until the last minute, especially if it’s your first time filing. This year, taxes are due Tuesday, April 17, 2018—but the deadline is usually April 15, unless that falls on a holiday or weekend (like it does this year). Give yourself plenty of time to complete your taxes and avoid the last-minute stress—a great habit to start now and continue every year!

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