5 Tips to Make Tax Time Pain-Free

Taxes: one of the few certainties in life. Since you have to do them, you might as well be prepared so you can breeze through them, right? Use this quick tax checklist to ensure tax preparation and filing is a breeze.

Gather Up Those Documents

When W-2s, 1099s and everything else begin flooding my mailbox, I start to create a mountain of paper I lovingly call the “tax pile.” On the digital side, I start filing everything into a folder so I’m prepared when I fire up TurboTax. If you want to be an adult and actually organize your own tax pile, I suggest an accordion folder like this one. It’s a great way to sort everything by filing year.


Check Your List, and Check It Twice

Do you have everything you need? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ready to submit my taxes, only to get a last-minute bank statement out of the blue. Make a list of everything you filed last year, and note any changes. Did you work as an independent contractor, like I did? You’ll probably need a 1099. Make sure you have records of all forms of income and investments, proof of student loan interest or donations to charity, etc. You’ll also want to be ready if you had any major life changes, such as adding a dependent, getting a new job or buying a home.

Know Your Numbers

You’re always going to need your Social Security number and the Social Security numbers of your partner and any dependents, but there are some other identifiers that I always forget, like my tax Identity Protection Pin, or IP PIN. If you don’t know your PIN or need to get one, you can do so through irs.gov. If you really run into a bind, you can also use last year’s adjusted gross income, or AGI, to validate your return.

Choose Your Tax-Time Weapon

I personally use TurboTax to file. I’ve flirted with other tax software, but I’ve always come back to TurboTax because it’s fast, easy and convenient. The best part is the import feature, which works in a few ways. First, it’ll import W-2s automatically if you have the employer’s Employer Identification Number, or EIN. Second, it pulls all your information from the previous year, which saves a tremendous amount of time. Even if I know I’m going to owe money on my return, I’ll still use TurboTax to get the job done. It’s a time-saver and headache preventer all in one.

Prepare to Treat Yo Self

In the immortal words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, “Treat Yo Self!” Whether you’re getting some much-needed cash back or parting ways with more of your funds, you deserve a little something for putting in the hours during tax time. Might I suggest a massage or another form of relaxation? If you’re not into the spa, there’s always retail therapy. I’ve been eyeing a pair of New Balance Fresh Foams for a while now.


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