DIY Taxes

by Calla Hummel ; Updated July 27, 2017
The IRS offers multiple tax preparation tutorials.

Plenty of online resources offer advice, instructions and programs to help you do your taxes yourself, not least of which is the Internal Revenue Service itself. Depending on your income bracket and the number of things you must report, you may be able to use tax preparation software for free. Regardless of your situation, the IRS publishes detailed instructions and explanations for every part of the tax code.

What You Need

To do your taxes yourself, you must have all the requisite documentation. You need last year’s tax return, your W-2 (compensation report from your employer), and 1099 (miscellaneous payments, usually given to independent contractors), any tuition statements, important sales (bonds, stocks, houses or cars) and the receipts for any items you think you can deduct. Try saving and organizing this information throughout the year to avoid a headache on tax day.

Free Tax Preparation Software

If you cannot afford to pay someone to prepare your taxes for you, tax preparation software provides the second easiest way to file your taxes. If your adjusted gross income was less than $58,000 for tax year 2010, you can use tax preparation software from corporations such as TurboTax and H&R Block for free through the IRS website.

Foms and Instructions

If you are in the 30 percent of tax payers whose adjusted gross income exceeds $58,000, you can still do your taxes yourself through the IRS website. The IRS publishes forms in PDF format that you can fill out, print and mail to the IRS. The forms perform basic calculations and will help you take the totals from one part of the form to another, deduct, add, etc. Alternatively, you can print the forms and write in the numbers while following the online instructions. For every form the IRS publishes detailed instructions that define and explain every step and question.

Considerations

If you have multiple sources of income, extensive investments, a business, new inheritance or any other complicated financial arrangement, consider hiring an accountant or buying specialized tax preparation software. An accountant or professional software can help you separate out your finances, avoid double taxing and help you take advantage of credits and shelters.

About the Author

Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.

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