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Organize your way to tax day: 5 steps for success

Tax Filing Tax Planning Taxes

Whether you file early or wait until the deadline, there are simple things you can do today to help you cruise through tax season. Use these five tips to get organized, address little things early, and clear away filing obstacles. That way, when you sit down to prepare taxes, there’s nothing standing between you and filing success — except maybe a pile of snacks. And who are you kidding? You’ll need those.

A lady gathering all documents for filing taxes

Step one: Gather your documents

Your tax forms should arrive in the mail soon if they haven’t already. Take a moment to pull out a file folder, label it, and set it somewhere safe. As those documents arrive, add them to your new tax-day folder.

Most common tax forms are sent out by late January, so if you’re missing a W-2 or 1099 in mid-February, go ahead and track it down. Having everything you need in one place sets you up for a Tax Day Win.

Not sure which documents you need? Check out our list of common forms

Step Two: Review your year’s milestones

Did you get married? Have a baby? Buy a house? Whatever your big life move: congratulations! Since Uncle Sam isn’t a traditional “cool uncle,” don’t expect a gift from your registry. You can expect additional documentation needs, and possibly extra tax forms.

For example, if you got married: Check that your filing name matches what’s on your social security card. If you moved, update your address — you can do that as you file. You’ll also want to decide how you and your spouse will file this year: Your choices are “married filing jointly” and “married filing separately.”

Remember, whether you tied the knot at New Year’s brunch or right before the ball dropped, the IRS considers you married for the entire year. Make sure your information reflects that.

Step Three: Consider if you’ll itemize

The standard deduction spiked in recent years. In fact, its value has nearly doubled, causing the number of taxpayers who itemize their deductions to drop significantly. TaxAct can help you run the numbers each way to see which choice works best for you.

Standard deductions for the 2020 tax year:

Filing status

Standard deduction

Single

$12,400

Married, filing jointly

$24,800

Married, filing separately

$12,400

Head of household

$18,650

Planning to itemize? Go ahead and organize your year of receipts. An easy way to combine digital and hard copies is to snap, save, and sort them into your phone’s photo albums. That way, they’re all in one place.

Know you’ll take the standard deduction? Nice. Relax and skip receipt gathering altogether.

Step Four: Set time aside

Life is hectic. And somehow, the second you sit down to do your taxes is when that chaos escalates. Show your schedule who’s boss: Clear a designated block of time on the calendar to file. Go all out: schedule a playdate for the kids. Buy yourself some rewarding snacks ahead of time. Set aside your comfiest clothes. By assigning that time now, you remove the “when will I prepare my taxes?!” stress from your life. And when the time rolls around, you’ll have an environment that lets you focus.

Step Five: Find a partner that helps you succeed

TaxAct is designed to help you hang on to more of what’s already yours. We’ll walk you through each section of your taxes, step by step, prompting you with tips for deductions and credits that you may not know about.

Best of all, our tax preparation solutions help you to prepare your taxes quickly so that you can get back to your life. Isn’t that the kind of partner you want in your corner on Tax Day? We hope so because we’re ready to help you succeed. 

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