5 DIY Tips for filing your taxes online

If your tax situation is fairly simple and you’re tired of paying someone to prepare and file your taxes, DIY tax prep may be the way to go. The software for do-it-yourself tax preparation has come a long way in making tax season simpler for many Americans. 

Here are five tips to master DIY tax prep: 

1) IRS FreeFile

You could qualify for free e-filing with an IRS FreeFile partner if your adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less. To see if you qualify for an IRS Free File provider program,  check the IRS Free File site. There are several providers to choose from and some offer state and federal returns for free. The partners are required to provide the most common forms most people need. However, you can view their info and see if they provide the forms you may need for free. 

2) Low cost software

Many tax software providers available today offer low cost options, including free federal filing options for the most basic tax returns. Choose the simplest and least expensive product option you think you may be able to use. If it turns out that the option you chose doesn’t cover the forms you need, the software will prompt you to upgrade.

3) File as soon as possible

File your tax return as soon as you are certain that you have all the information and tax documents needed. Once you have your valid return accepted by the IRS electronically, it is harder for tax identity thieves to file a fraudulent tax return in your name. Also, planning to file earlier rather than later means you can have delays due to life events and still file on time. 

4) Read Carefully

Pro Tip: Amend or supersede a tax return filed with an error

Correcting most mistakes isn’t much more difficult than the original return, so if you found you made a mistake, like not including a W-2, consider trying to fix it yourself. This process has been simplified in many cases. 

The IRS is now allowing individuals to supersede (replace) a tax return if the superseding return is filed before the filing due date, including extensions. Basically, the return will just have a check mark to indicate it is a superseding tax return, and otherwise it is done just like an original tax return. When superseding a tax return, you don’t need a 1040-X form like an amendment does. 

The IRS hasn’t provided all of the guidance for superseding individual tax returns yet, so there may be some important details not yet known. But this is a big change for filing taxes for tax year 2022. 

Errors often occur by not filling in the software questions and fields correctly. Make sure you understand the questions asked in the tax software, and don’t assume. If you aren’t sure, many software providers have Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) you can refer to and information links explaining the question or topic. Some even offer free or paid tax assistance. You could ask a friend or relative for help, but realize that carries risk if they are not a tax professional. Just because they have “done it before” doesn’t make it right. 

A good practice is to research the IRS publications and instructions for answers to your questions on IRS.gov.

Ultimately if you aren’t confident you’re preparing your tax return correctly, that’s the time to hire professional help. 

5) Keep up with changes

Tax software will keep up with changes and try to make sure the ones that may apply to you are covered with the software questions. But it is a good idea to be aware of new changes for yourself. IRS instructions and publications typically have a summary update each year at the beginning of the document. Two good places for all taxpayers to find updates are the 1040 instructions and Publication 17 Your Federal Income Tax. Changes are covered in the section titled “What’s New.” 

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