As a kid, I felt like tax time was more of a free stress test for my parents. There was the annual fury over finding papers, the endless chatter about lost forms and the occasional spat over missing receipts. It seemed like a lot of unhappiness over something that they knew had to happen each and every year. Now, thanks to free online programs, those of us with relatively simple returns can complete them in less than an hour, without headaches. Here are a few tips on how to stay sane:
- Get your documents together and keep them together. To minimize any pre-preparation angst, find a spot in your home to store all the documents you need, including W-2s, information on your health care, student loans, bank account information, and any dependents. I typically use a shoe box or a leftover delivery box. A copy of last year’s return is also helpful. If you’re crafty, decorate the box with happy faces to set the mood.
- Don’t pay for something you can get for free. Websites like MyFreeTaxes.com offer free filing programs for people earning less than $62,000 a year. Because it’s offered by United Way and features H&R Block software, you can trust that it’s both safe and doesn’t come with a hidden up-sale. Save the money you’d spend on an accountant and buy yourself a cupcake (or 50).
- Give yourself plenty of time. Even if you do keep all your documents in order, your tax prep program may prompt you to look for something you don’t have on hand. MyFreeTaxes is optimized for mobile, so you can login from anywhere. Childcare receipts in your glove box? Healthcare forms in your gym bag? No worries, you can grab your smartphone and enter the information as needed.
- Phone a friend. Not sure what to do with that 1099-C from your credit card company? Don't understand why those medical bills aren't helping to increase your refund? Ask someone who can make sense of it for you. MyFreeTaxes.com has tax experts available by phone or chat. They're certified to answer most questions quickly and easily, so you can get back to finishing that return with confidence. You'll get your questions answered, and you'll learn something along the way.
- If you’re stressed, take a break. Since you can even use MyFreeTaxes through game consoles like X-box, taking a little time out to play Madden NFL 16 never hurt anybody.
Brad Martin, February 5, 2016 United Way Worldwide