File Your Own Taxes

While many taxpayers use an accountant or tax preparer to do their taxes, some choose to go the DIY route. We'll tell you everything you need to know to maximize your refund when doing your own taxes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do I need to know if I'm filing for the first time?

    Essentially, you likely owe the government a portion of your income and earnings. Income tax is usually withheld from each of your paychecks by your employer throughout the year, based on what you'll probably owe. Certain factors can affect how much you'll owe, such as your marital status, the number of dependents you have, and tax breaks that you're entitled to claim. Using tax software is one of the easiest ways to prepare your tax return. These programs ask you some questions and fill in the appropriate forms for you based on your answers.

  • Is it cheaper to do my own taxes?

    Preparing your tax return yourself can be cheaper than paying someone else such as an accountant to prepare and file your taxes. You might consider choosing tax preparation software from a company such as TurboTax or H&R Block, both which offer low fees and sometimes free deals. These services usually offer tax support and advice as well.

  • What are the requirements for filing taxes?

    Your tax filing requirements depend on a few factors including filing status (i.e. single, married, head of household), age, and gross income. If you're single and under 65, for example, as of the 2020 tax year, you were required to file if your federal gross income was $12,400 or more. If you’re 65 or older, you were required to file if your federal gross income was $14,050 or more.

  • What are the penalties for not filing taxes on time?

    Generally, interest accrues on any unpaid tax from the due date of the return until the date of payment in full. If you owe tax and don't file on time, there's also a penalty for not filing on time. The failure-to-file penalty is usually 5% of the tax owed for each month, or part of a month that your return is late, up to a maximum of 25%. 

  • Should I e-file my taxes?

    The short answer is yes, e-filing is very safe for submitting your tax returns. E-filing is more secure than mailing a tax return via snail mail, because the data in an e-filed tax return is specially encrypted for extra security. Encryption prevents any access to data as it moves between your tax software and the IRS or state tax agency.

  • How do I file an extension for my tax return?

    The deadline for your annual personal return is normally April 15, unless it falls on a weekend or a holiday, in which case your taxes would be due the next business day. You have until October 15 to file your return if you file an extension. Just file IRS Form 4868 instead of your tax return, on or before the original filing deadline. The extension is automatic—you won't have to wait and hope for a nod of approval from the IRS.

Key Terms

who qualifies for head of household status? this status is considered to be the most preferable for taxpayers, as it results in a higher standard deduction and wider tax brackets. In most cases to qualify, you must prove: You are unmarried on the last day of the tax year, or lived in a separate residence from your spouse for at least the last six months of the year. You provide more than half the cost of your household’s expenses. A qualifying dependent must live in your home for more than half the year (certain restrictions apply for this rule)
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Title reads: "Tax preparation prices and fees." Text reads: "A set fee for each tax form or schedule; a fee based on last year's fee plus an additional fee for any changes in a client's tax situation; a minimum tax return fee, plus an additional fee based on the complexity of the client's situation; a value-based fee based on the subjective value of the tax preparation service; an hourly rate for time spent preparing the tax return; a set fee for each item of data entry. Average cost for a tax preparer: $294 if you itemize your deductions, $188 if you do not itemize your deductions"
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