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10 Tips for 2015 Tax Filing

10 Tax Tips for Filing 2015 Tax Returns

File your 2012 tax filing online for fast refunds.It’s that time of the year: tax season. By now, you’ve undoubtedly received your W-2 forms so it’s time to get started on the 2015 tax filing of your tax returns. The final filing date this year is April 15th and with the following tips you should be off to a good start:

#1: Track Down Any Missing W-2’s

Although employers are required to send out W-2’s by the end of January, if you haven’t received your form in the mail, be sure to contact your employer to confirm that they’ve sent it and that they have your correct address on file. If you have your final pay stub available, you may also call the IRS (800-829-1040) to give them your name, address, social security, phone number and employer information and provide an estimate of your wages earned and tax withheld. You should still be sure to file a return by the April 15th deadline and you can use your pay stubs to complete Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2. To correct your tax return after you receive your W-2, use Form 1040X.

#2: Get The Forms You Need

If you choose to file your tax returns without using an e-filing service, you’ll need access to the IRS forms. You can download forms from the IRS website at anytime. You can also order forms by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) Monday through Friday 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM to make your request. Many community organizations, such as libraries or post offices also carry tax forms.

#3: Use Direct Deposit

Certainly the best part about getting a refund via direct deposit is that it is fast. Once the IRS accepts your return, it can take as little as 48 hours to receive the refund as opposed to weeks waiting for it to come in the mail. Using direct deposit is convenient and it can save you a trip to the bank, not to mention you have the option to split the refund so that it is deposited into more than one account – a great option for sharing it with a spouse.

#4: Parents: Take Advantage of Tax Benefits

If your child remained 17 years of age by the end of 2015, you can still claim him or her and take advantage of the Child Tax Credit. There are even tax benefits available to adoptive parents so be sure to check the tax credits available to parents on the IRS page to see if you qualify to receive any of these.

#5: Know Your Filing Status

Your filing status has a huge impact on the kinds of benefits and deductions you are eligible to receive on your tax return. A few factors influence your filing status: whether you’re single or married, whether you’re filing jointly or separately, if you’re the head of your household, or if you’re a widow(er) with a dependent child. One of the easiest ways to figure out your status is to use an e-filing service. In addition be sure to consider your status when determining your 2015 marginal tax rate.

#6: Get Help From a Professional Tax Preparer

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional tax preparer if you think you will need assistance with filing your return or understanding your deductions.  In addition, a tax preparer can help you understand the type of tax credits that are available to you. You can check your tax preparer’s qualifications by asking for his Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

#7: Get Tax Help In Spanish

Taxes are hard enough to file as it is, but it can be even worse if English isn’t your native language. Luckily, the IRS offers tax help in Spanish on their website. This site offers assistance on topics such as a recent arrival in the US, social security numbers, identity theft, and small businesses. If you or someone you know is more comfortable doing taxes in Spanish, this site is an excellent resource.

#8: E-file Your Tax Return

More than 80% of taxpayers e-file their returns. If you haven’t tried it yet, maybe this can be the year where you start. There are many benefits to e-filing such as added filing accuracy as the software checks your return for inconsistencies before submitting your form. It is also safer to e-file; companies that offer e-filing software have to meet certain encryption standards in order to provide the service. E-filing also results in faster refunds than those from paper returns; most refunds from e-filed taxes are delivered in less than 21 days.

#9: Determine Which Income Is Nontaxable

Although most income is taxable, there are some exceptions you should know about so that you can maximize your return or minimize your payment. Child support payments, gifts, inheritance, welfare benefits, cash rebates, and reimbursements from qualified adoption expenses are nontaxable. Life insurance proceeds and income from a qualified scholarship are normally nontaxable income, but there are exceptions so be sure to investigate those details.

#10: File For An Extension If Needed

If you don’t think you will be able to file your return by the April 15th deadline, you can file for an extension using Form 4868, which will grant you 6 more months to finish getting everything ready.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

By Neda Jafarzadeh, a financial analyst with NerdWallet Investing, which helps investors compare total costs to find the best online broker for their stock trading.

Required Legal Disclosures

Our firm provides the information in this website for general guidance only, and it does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a competent professional tax, accounting, legal, or other professional advisers. For information on how to use this data, you are advised to read our Legal Disclaimer page and our Circular 230 page.
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  1. Great article! We always use one of those tax programs. Our big thing every year is tracking down our charitable donation receipts and the lists of items that went to charity to go with them. We’ll be filing here in the next couple of days. Thanks for the info!

  2. JTomlison, that’s great, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Tracking down deductions and the accompanying paperwork is always very time consuming. I would also suggest seeing what was most problematic this year and setting a tracking system or a process in place for next year to make things easier. Happy tax filing!

  3. This is a great article. I am a firm believer in utilizing tax software to speed up the process AND find extra deductions and credits!

  4. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! if you use tax software be sure to read the reviews to see if it’s really a good fit.

  5. It’s a great prompt to get paperwork tracked down now so there’s time to get copies of anything needed before April. I always find the end of the tax year a complete rush, but do file online, which is so easy to do.

  6. Emily Dillingham says:

    I really appreciate your tips. As someone who still hasn’t filed this year, I can use these ideas now instead of next time – especially the child tax credit.

  7. We definitely agree with getting help with our taxes. We set aside money in an envelope monthly to pay our accountant. It’s well worth it for the peace of mind!

  8. Since I’ve been having to file my own returns, I’ve always filed them online, I could never imagine going back to the days of snail mail and getting things wrong. That’s a great tip and piece of advice, I still can’t believe that 20% don’t do it online!!!

  9. This is great, timely information. I dread tax time like the plague, but your tips should ease the unpleasantness and pain a bit. Thanks for providing this info.

  10. I feel pretty lucky – when my boyfriend and I get our W2s, we file that day to get it all done and out the door since we have so much going on. If we didn’t file right away, our papers would get lost and then it’d never get done.

  11. Marie Samuelson says:

    This year I was able to get help filing through our senior center as they offer free tax service to seniors. I usually try to file early and since I had it direct deposit, the money was there fast! I didn’t have to worry about anything. Thanks for these tips! They are really helpful

  12. It’s surprising how many people are not ready for tax time every year. It’s like Christmas, we all know it’s coming, but nobody is ready. This is a good list that everyone should read.

  13. A Stettner says:

    Thankfully I’ve already done my taxes for the year, but I still have a few questions before filing for next year, and hopefully I’ll have time to find answers. Is it better to file jointly or sperately? My girlfriend and I are not legally married, but we own a home together and share household expenses. We have no children though. Is there any benefit to filing jointly? We usually file seperately, but if w would save money by filing together, I certainly would like to.

    • Under current tax law, to file a joint tax return, you have to be legally married or be living in a state that recognizes common law marriages. Generally speaking, and it does vary, it is usually beneficial to file a joint tax return. Your tax preparer should do a calculation to see which method benefits you most, assuming of course, that you would qualify for joint filing.

  14. Are there tax rebates for persons who are undergoing life saving proceedures such as for cancer or heart? Someone told me I could expense my travel and a per diem for my hospital trips…

  15. Very productive article, I have learned so much from reading this article. I agree with the “direct deposit” part. I also use direct deposit. All the tax refunds I receive from government, come via direct deposit. I have never done e-filing tax return before, I will give it a try.

  16. You always give me what i want and i will never desist from reading your update,very informative,there is really a great need for me to get in touch with a professional tax preparer.

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