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How can I Prepare to do my Own Taxes?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 16, 2024
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Though using an accountant or a professional tax preparer has some conveniences, preparing your own taxes allows you to maintain full control over the process. You can work at your own pace and save the money you would have paid to a tax preparer. As such, many people choose to do their own taxes each year.

Doing your own taxes should begin with preparation before you even sit down with tax documents and receipts. First, make certain that you have all the necessary forms and schedules. In the United States, you can request the forms and schedules you need from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by phone or online.

You may want to consider using tax preparation software to prepare your taxes on your home computer. If you use tax software, you won't have to worry about securing the proper forms. Tax forms and schedules are typically included with the software. If necessary, you can even download updated forms over the internet and import them into the program.

The next step, as you prepare to do your own taxes, is to make certain that you have all the necessary tax documents at hand. Gather your 1099s, W-2s, dividend statements, and other tax-related documents, and check them for errors. It is a good idea to do this early, as waiting for corrected documents can take some time. For certain documents, such as a W-2, you may be able to correct the information yourself and have the provider of the form correct your official record. It’s a good idea, however, to check with the IRS before doing so.

Last year's tax return is a good resource to have handy as you prepare to do your own taxes. By taking a look at last year’s information and deductions, you can get a good idea of where to start in the current year. Taking a look at last year's return can also help you to determine whether any vital documents are missing. Basically, you can take note of what you used last year and make sure you have it this year.

Once you are sure that your tax documents are in order, gather the supplies you need to prepare your taxes. Make certain to obtain a calculator and several sharpened pencils, as well as some scrap paper. If you're using software to prepare your taxes, you may not need to perform as many calculations. However, it is wise to keep such supplies handy for double-checking figures and adding receipts together quickly.

The last thing you should do as you prepare to do your own taxes is to browse the IRS website for tax news or changes. You may also wish to use the site to search for information about the proper way to handle certain tax situations, such as money paid for childcare. Once you've updated your tax knowledge a bit, you are ready to sit down to prepare your tax return.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a SmartCapitalMind writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By dimpley — On Apr 19, 2011

Filing taxes by yourself is totally possible, but it takes some dedication to get off on the right foot. It seems like it’s a lot harder to sit down and find the time to crunch those numbers than anything. But I’ve been doing my own taxes for a while now, and I’ve never had any negative backlash from it. I just hated paying somebody to fill in a form that I could do perfectly well myself. Of course, being single, my taxes are never that hard to figure out. I guess paying somebody to do it could be worth your while if there was a husband and ten kids to worry about. I just like the idea of free tax preparation.

By JessiC — On Apr 17, 2011

I must say that I’m not quite brave enough yet to sit down and do my own taxes without the help from tax software. Although this typically does cost a little, it is just a portion of what it costs to hire someone else to do them. Of course, my husband and I have tons of paperwork that goes with our taxes. I imagine if we were just filing straight returns without all of the extra stuff that goes along with a home business and stuff that we could probably do them ourselves. I guess I just feel a little safer knowing that somebody, somewhere who knows more about taxes than me has had a hand in preparing them! Tax filing is not an area that I want to mess up in!

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a SmartCapitalMind writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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