Should You File Your Own Taxes?
Here’s Why I Do.

Taxes can be surprisingly simple, not to mention free to file…depending on your situation.

Taxes aren’t something you really worry about when you’re dependent on your parents/guardians/overlords. If you have a job, you get your little tax form at the end of the year, you hand that over to whoever takes care of the family business, and hopefully, you get some money back.

Then a few moons pass, and suddenly, you’re an independent. You are now responsible for getting your taxes taken care of.

The question is….

How do you do your taxes?

I was 24 when I became independent, and since I had no comprehension of how taxes worked, and the IRS seemed like the last organization I wanted to tussle with, I continued to let my dad’s tax person take care of them.

The only thing was, I had to pay for this service since it my own taxes. And yet, I still had to wait until my dad filed his taxes before mine were filed.

And he always waited till the last month. But it was fine because I still got money back, and the IRS left me alone.

Then one year, I got no money back.

I did some freelance work that wasn’t pre-taxed (something I had no understanding of), and that killed most of my refund. What little was left went to paying the tax man. And it was then that I had an epiphany:

This is stupid.

Taxes were already taking a third of my money, and on top of that, I was paying someone to essentially confirm how much money the government was taking? It was time to cut out middle man and take care of my own business.

After all, how complicated could it be?

I know, that sounds like a dangerous question. But as it turned out…

Filing my own taxes was ridiculously easy.

And I could do it for free!

Now, I should preface this. The first year I did my taxes, I was single with no children, I didn’t own a home, I worked for an employer (meaning no deductions and special tax breaks), and any money I earned on the side was less than $600, which means I didn’t really have to report it to the IRS.

In other words, my taxes were about as straightforward as it gets. The whole process took about 30 minutes.

I did it online on my own time.

And I got my refund long before my dad even filed his taxes.

For most freshly independent adults, you’re probably in a similar situation, which means your taxes are equally simple. Even if you are married, and you’re filing jointly, your taxes probably aren’t too complex.

It’s basic data entry and a few button clicks. You almost have to try to screw it up.

How Do You Do Your Own Taxes?

Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to file your own taxes. Just visit a site such as Turbo Tax or H&R Block, create an account, and get your taxes sorted with speed and simplicity. I have used both of these platforms, and they’re both very intuitive.

They take you through the process step by step, explaining exactly what you need to do along the way.

Both start off with free options, though you can pay for some advanced features and additional peace of mind. For many, these aren’t necessary and the free options will do the job just fine.

But what if I get audited?

Surely doing your own taxes increases the chances of the big, scary IRS coming to your door, right? No, not really. At least, not as long as you’re honest.

As someone who has done a fair amount of professional writing for the tax and accounting world, I can tell you first hand, your chances of getting audited are very small. If you don’t run some sort of business, and you make less than $200,000, your odds of an audit are less than 0.4%.

And regardless your income bracket, the main causes for being audited are a: trying to not pay your taxes, b: lying on your taxes, or c: making a data entry error.

In other words, make sure you file your taxes, verify that the information is correct, and don’t lie or attempt to deduct things that have nothing to do with your business, and you have little to fear.

Will I miss out on deductions?

If you’re childless, don’t own a home, and/or don’t run a fulltime business, probably not. Last year, I was a full-time independent contractor with side-income and a variety of deductions. After completing my taxes, I decided to pay a professional to review them because I was paranoid and secretly hoped they’d find some missing tax breaks.

They found nothing and informed me that I had done everything correctly. So, you know, that was a great investment of my money.

When can I begin?

The IRS doesn’t start accepting taxes until January 29th. But you can get everything sorted and ready for filing as soon as you have the necessary documents. That includes your W-2s, 1099’s, 1098’s, renter’s payment history, etc. All of the things you’d neither whether you file your own taxes or not.

Still unsure? Why not just try it out? At the very least, it will help you better understand your taxes and personal finances, which is always good.

If you end up owing a bunch of money or your refund seems considerably smaller than past years, you can always consult a tax professional from there. But I think a lot of people will discover they can do just fine on their own.

Have experience with doing your own taxes? Any additional thoughts on the subject? Share below!

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