10 Tax Tips for Filing 2015 Tax Returns
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.