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Yes You Can File Your Own Taxes: Smart Tips for First Time Filers

If the thought of filing your own taxes inspires fear and worry, you are not alone. This fear of filing is why the professional tax preparation industry is big business, and why millions of taxpayers spend billions of dollars on this yearly service. What many of those tax filers do not know is that doing their own taxes is not as daunting a task as it seems. If you have always handed your taxes off to a pro, you might want to try a DIY approach this year.

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Yes You Can File Your Own Taxes: Smart Tips for First Time Filers

Professional tax filing services can make sense for business owners, the self-employed, wealthy investors and others with complicated returns, but for everyone else a DIY approach is a great way to save money while learning about the tax filing system. Here are some simple tips to make your first tax filing experience easier and less stressful.

Keep Good Records

Good record-keeping is essential whether you do your own taxes or hand them off to a CPA or other professional. Even if you pay someone else to file your taxes, you are ultimately responsible for the numbers on the page.

If you plan to do your own taxes this year, start by setting aside a specific place for all your tax records. From pay stubs to 1099 forms and receipts, centralizing this documentation will make your life, and your tax filing experience, a lot easier.

Maintain a Running Tally

If you have more than one source of income, keep a running tally every time you get paid. For those with side hustles and part time jobs, that could mean maintaining a spreadsheet and recording the amount of each payment. For those with full-time jobs and no other income, it could be as simple as recording the year-to-date totals from each paycheck.

This running tally serves a number of purposes. For one thing, it helps ensure the proper amount is being deducted from your payments, so you do not end up with a big tax bill when you file. The running totals will also allow you to test drive various tax filing software packages, running the numbers as you go and comparing various features as you go.

Test Drive Various Tax Preparation Software Programs

Speaking of tax preparation software packages, there are dozens on the market, all claiming to be the best. The only way to know which software works best for you is to try out several different versions.

Most of the major tax preparation packages allow filers to start their returns for free, making it easy to give each software a trial run. Once you know which package is best for you, it is simply a matter of filing your taxes and paying any fees at the end.

Best of all, many taxpayers are eligible for free filing through the IRS, so you may not have to spend a penny to get your taxes done. That zero number compares favorably to the $100 or more some professional tax preparation services charge.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Nothing is quite as stressful as sweating out your tax return, as April 15 ticks ever closer. If you wait too long to file your taxes, you could end up running to a pro at the last minute, and all your DIY efforts will have been for naught.

Filing early is always a good idea, but it is even more important for first-time filers. While filing a basic return is pretty simple, there is a bit of a learning curve, especially if you have never done it before.

If you want to boost the size of your refund and keep more money in your pocket, doing your own taxes is a great place to start. Instead of wasting money on a professional, you can file your own taxes and get 100% of the cash you have coming your way.

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