Tax Day: What to keep in mind (and avoid) when filing your taxes

Filing your taxes can be stressful, but there’s help on your side.

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Tax Day can be an easy time for some taxpayers and daunting for others who don’t quite understand the nuance of filing taxes. For your benefit, theGrio has compiled the myriad ways you can make Tax Day work for you and not against you.

What to Know About Tax Day

IRS
(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

First things first, you have until the end of Monday, April 18, to completely file your taxes, including federal and state taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers two options for free filing: Guided Tax Preparation and Fillable Forms.

The IRS on Guided Tax Preparation guidelines are as follows:

Guided Tax Preparation provides free online tax preparation and filing at an IRS partner site. IRS partners deliver this service at no cost to qualifying taxpayers. Taxpayers whose AGI is $73,000 or less qualify for a free federal tax return.

The IRS on Fillable Forms guidelines are as follows:

Free File Fillable Forms are electronic federal tax forms, equivalent to a paper 1040 form. You should know how to prepare your tax return using form instructions and IRS publications if needed. It provides a free option to taxpayers whose income (AGI) is greater than $73,000.

The IRS works in tandem with the Free File Alliance, a handful of tax preparation software companies that the government agency partnered with to aid taxpayers. According to the IRS, some of these companies also offer free state tax returns.

A copy of a IRS 1040 tax form is seen at an H&R Block office on the day President Donald Trump signed the Republican tax cut bill in Washington, DC on December 22, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Items taxpayers will need to complete their free filing include:

  • Personal Information
  • A copy of last year’s tax return in order to access your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
  • Valid Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse, and any dependent, if applicable
    Income and Receipts
  • Social Security benefits
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • All receipts pertaining to your small business, if applicable
  • Income receipts from rental, real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporation, trusts

Other Income:

  • W-2s, showing your annual wages from all of your employers
  • Form 1099-INT, showing interest paid to you throughout the year
  • Form 1099-G, showing any refund, credit or offset of state and local taxes
  • Forms 1099-DIV and 1099-R, showing dividends and distributions from retirement and other plans paid to you during the year

ACA Filers:

  • Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement.
  • Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit

For more details, visit the IRS free filing page here.

More Time On The Clock

Tax filing season begins January 24, 2022. (Photo credit: Adobe Stock Images)

If taxpayers need extra time to file their documents, those individuals can request an extension. It should be noted that your taxes are still to be paid before the deadline to avoid potential penalties. The extension will grant taxpayers a deadline of October 17.

The extension can be done via the Free File program, which employs the use of outside IRS partners to do so electronically. If a paper form is desired, use For 4868.

To electronically file for an extension via the IRS Free File partner program, click here. To learn more about the various programs, including those in a combat zone or living abroad, click here.

VITA and TCE: Extra Help for Those in Need and The Elderly

The IRS offers two assistance programs for qualified individuals: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).

VITA, which has been in existence for over 50 years, assists those taxpayers who make $58,000 or less, live with disabilities, and don’t have a strong command of the English language.

The TCE program lends assistance to individuals 60 and older with a dedicated focus on pensions, retirement benefits, and other related concerns pertaining to seniors.

Volunteers who lend their services are often retirees themselves and are connected to non-profit organizations supported by grants from the IRS. The volunteers undergo rigorous training and must pass tax law testing that matches the standards expected of the IRS.

Learn more about VITA and TCE here.

W-2 Wage and Tax Statement Form. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Find A Legitimate Tax Preparer

Unfortunately, Tax Day is also when predatory scams spike, targeting individuals angling to do their duty as taxpayers. Because the information needed to file taxes is highly sensitive, it pays to vet and only works with qualified individuals. The IRS put together a page that will guide taxpayers on their journey to locating a qualified professional who possesses an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

To learn more about finding a tax return preparer, click here.

In Conclusion

While we focused largely on individual tax preparation, state taxes follow a similar method to that of the IRS. To locate your state’s government websites for taxation purposes, click here.

Further, for business owners, independent contractors, freelancers, and the like, the method of preparing taxes differs. To learn more, click here.

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