We've all heard at least one of those horror stories about a complicated tax code leading even diligent, well-intentioned taxpayers down the path toward costly errors or—gasp!—an audit.
Before you get too spooked, however, here's the good news: Many such tales are exaggerations or rare exceptions to the rule. Most people file their taxes with minimal fuss and little or no complications. And if you do run into an issue there are plenty of resources available to help you find a solution before it becomes a real problem.
Here are four reasons that you don't have to be afraid of filing your taxes:
1. Your situation probably isn't that complicated
For most people, tax forms are fairly straightforward. Chances are, you only have to worry about obtaining a W-2—which your employer is required to send no later than January 31 of the following year—and determine whether you need to itemize. If you have a side hustle, you'll have 1099 forms to report, and you may owe self-employment tax. However, keep in mind that your tax return indicates where to enter all this information.
2. You can get help if you need it
Not sure how to proceed? You can get help preparing your taxes by searching reputable online resources or purchasing software that’s designed to help you fill in your forms. If you want more personalized help, consider hiring an accountant.
Another option is to call the IRS and put your tax questions directly to the source.
3. It doesn't have to cost very much
If you don't purchase software, filing your taxes won't cost you a penny. The IRS provides free forms you can fill out and submit electronically. Many tax software packages, should you choose to go that route, are reasonably priced as well.
Even professional advice can be affordable. If you earn $54,000 a year or less (income is just one of the qualifying factors for assistance), you can get free help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
4. The chance of audit is low
Though many of us live in fear of the dreaded audit, it's unlikely that we will ever endure one. According to Kiplinger, 99% of tax returns sail through IRS processing without issue.* And even if you are audited, it might not be as painful as you think. Most audits are conducted through the mail and do not require a face-to-face visit with an IRS representative. And if you'd rather not handle an audit personally, a tax professional can represent you.
While filing your taxes might seem difficult or overwhelming at times, in truth, the process is typically less complicated than it seems. Use these tips, and start as early as possible to maximize your chance for success.
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