Taxes

Being a twenty-something means no bedtime, the occasional bowl of ice cream for dinner and no limit to the amount of Netflix you’re allowed to watch in one sitting.It also means filing your own taxes.

Nothing makes me let out a Tina Belcher-like groan more than receiving my W-2 in the mail and realizing another tax season is fast-approaching.  But if we make it a priority, taxes do not have to be a burden on our to-do lists for long; if we get started as soon as we have the materials to do so, we’ll be sitting pretty on April 15th while procrastinators scurry around looking for their lost documents.

This year, the IRS will begin processing tax returns on January 31st, a little later than usual because of the government shutdown.  This does not push back our deadline, nor does it mean we can’t get started on taxes before the 31st.

Whether you’re a newbie to the tax game and need to start with the basics, or if you have been filing for years, getting started early has lots of benefits.  If you’re one of the approximately 80 percent of Americans who will get a refund this year, you’ll get the payout months earlier than tax procrastinators. Secondly, filing early secures your information and protects you from identity theft, a problem getting worse each year. Lastly, you’ll have extra time to manage any problems that arise with your return well before the deadline.

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For many twenty-somethings, filing taxes is a cinch if you are not married, have no children, no businesses, investments, or assets to complicate the process.  It’s once you start adding those into the equation that taxes become burdensome.  Mo’ money, mo’ problems is right.  However, twenty-somethings are often eligible for certain deductions, so do your research to find out if you may qualify.

Before beginning, you’ll need all W-2s from jobs held after January 31st, 2013, as well as your 2012 tax returns for reference. Other form(s) may be needed, and they vary depending on your individual situation; a tax professional, tax software or the IRS website can help you determine which ones.

Once you have the materials, you need to decide how you want to file.  If you opt to hire a professional, starting early will ensure there are appointments available and ample time for them to fully understand your financial situation and how to get your biggest return.  For paper filers, filing early will ensure you have time to fix any mistakes.  If you’re part of the 81 percent of taxpayers who prefer the simple e-file method, completing your taxes may take as little as an hour and can even be finished on your mobile phone.

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If you’re tax situation is a little complicated and your an Amazon Prime member, you can download TurboTax Deluxe for $29.99. As an added bonus, if you opt to purchase an Amazon gift card with part or all of your refund, Amazon will tack on an extra 10 percent onto your gift card. So if you chose a $500 Amazon gift card, it will end up being a $550 gift card. How awesome is that?

No matter how you’re doing your taxes this year, set a date that you’d like to have your taxes finished and mark it down in your planner so it doesn’t slip your mind.  Just like any other dread-inducing task, the problem only grows more menacing with procrastination. Rip off the band-aid and the pain will cease in no time. Happy filing!

Disclaimer: This article not offering tax advice.