Ok, so I'm going to be honest with you. I thought that filing your taxes was code for sending all of your receipts to your parents. Turns out, I was totally wrong about that. But tax season is approaching fast (too fast) and if I just burst your bubble about the whole parents thing, let me help. Here's how to file your 2018 taxes, because adulting can be kind of rough.
So you've got your tax forms in your hands and thinking, now what? If this is the first time you are filing your taxes it can seem pretty daunting (and even if it's not the first time, it can be a pain to figure out). There are forms and files and numbers, and the threat of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) breathing down your back. So take a deep breath and relax. First things first, the deadline to file is Tuesday, April 17. Add that to your calendar and set a reminder for every day till then, because you will definitely snooze it. Every. Single. Day. (But seriously, don't actually do that, because there are penalties for being late).
When it comes to filing your taxes, you have a couple of different options. You can go through the mail, go at it online, or hire an accountant or tax professional. But either way you will need a few basic things, like your social security number; W-2 (which is the form that is filed by all employees who have taxes withheld by an employer); your federal tax return form such as the 1040, or 1099 if you are self-employed; student loan paperwork if applicable; health insurance forms; and any receipts and deductions if you are self-employed.
Filing your taxes online is easiest if you've only had one job this tax year and therefore only have you only have one W-2 form, and didn't move at all. In that case, all you need to do is log onto an online filing system like TurboTax or Credit Karma Tax and send it on in. But be sure to read everything very carefully and take your time. Go slow.
If you've had more than one job or are a freelancer, then you might need a little extra help. Or maybe you only have the one W-2 but are still a bit nervous. Regardless, Nerd Wallet suggests that people filing for the first time don't go at it alone. There are places, like H&R Block, where you can just stop in and have a professional help you file your taxes. H&R Block even gives you this handy dandy checklist so you can come in with everything you need and make easy sailing of the whole process.
If you don't want to pay a tax professional, there are some other options. If your income is less than $54,000, you can take advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. If you qualify, then VITA will help you make sense of your taxes and file them electronically at no cost. According to the IRS site, VITA locations can usually be found in community or neighborhood centers, shopping malls, schools, and libraries. You can use a locator tool to find a VITA location near you and make an appointment to get in-person help with your taxes.
If you are dead-set on going at it alone no matter what your tax situation is, and you made under $66,000, then you're in luck. You can take advantage of the IRS's Free File program, which allows you to file your taxes online for free. The Free File program works by allowing you to access online filing sites through their system for free, or you can file electronically directly from the IRS site.
No one says the process is going to be totally painless and easy, but it's not impossible. If you enlist the help of a tax professional, then they can help you make sense of everything. They'll guide you through filing, deductions, and what all those ridiculous forms — most of which you won't have to look at now or ever — are. Also, you might not be able to just send Mom and Dad all your receipts, but you can still call them up for some advice or tips to help you out. I'm sure they'd love to hear from you, and see how hard you're adulting.
Whether you choose to take advantage of free tax services, enlist the help of a tax professional, or give a ring to your parents, just know you don't have to go at it alone. Trying something out for the first time is always difficult, but it's not impossible. But I do suggest you really pay attention to whoever is helping you. Learn the ropes, and that way by the time tax season rolls around next year you'll be a total pro. Happy adulting!