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How to File Your 2018 Taxes in 5 Easy Steps

taxes, how to, 2018

It’s almost April and we all know what that means: End of Tax Season!

I say this with excitement because every year I get a nice tax refund that I use to invest. This year, I am using my refund to invest in myself and start this business while I travel. I am writing this article in Thessaloniki, Greece!

This post will help you file your taxes for the first time instead of paying your accountant hundreds of dollars to do it for you.

Here are the 5 easy steps you need to take to file your taxes by the April 15th deadline:

Step 1

Go to the IRS website and decide on what tax software to use.

The IRS recommends several different free filing software. They also provide a simple search engine to sort through them. You can find all of these tools here

I used the IRS tool to find my free tax filing software when I was in college. I decided to use freetaxusa.com and have been using them for the last 4 years. They have a refund maximizer and helps me to qualify for more credits and deductions than I knew existed!

Freetaxusa does not charge for your federal tax return, but there is a small fee for filing your state taxes. Pro-tip: every year they send out an email with discount codes for 10% off!

Step 2

Collect all of the tax documents you will need. This should take you about a half hour!

You should create a checklist of all the tax forms you will need. These are documents from your employers, investments and student loans, etc. Most of these documents will be sent to you online via email or by logging into your accounts.

Don’t worry about doing everything in one sitting. Most of these sites allow you to save your progress as you fill out the form!

Here is a list of the tax documents I usually need when I file; you should receive all of these forms by Jan. 31st at the latest.

  • Paycheck Documents (W2 forms):

    • What is a W2? Tax form your employer completes that documents the wages paid to you and the taxes that were withheld.
    • Where can I find it? If you do not receive a paper copy via mail, you can usually find these online wherever you look at your pay stubs.
      • Many companies use a third party hr provider to handle wages and tax documents.
      • Typical providers include Gusto, Trinet, ADP, Paychex, Kronos, Zenefits. You can find an extended list here.
      • If you still cannot find the form, contact the HR team for the company.
  • School Documents ( 1098-T, 1098-E):

    • What is a 1098-T? This is a tuition statement filled out by your school that documents the payments you’ve paid and the payments you have due.
      • You only receive these when you are a currently enrolled student and this form might help you qualify for tax credits!
    • Where can I find it? Most schools send out an email with information on where to find an electronic version of this form.
      • If you have not received anything, try googling: “(School Name) + 1098-T” and your school will probably have a web page with more info. If that doesn’t work, contact your school’s registrar office.
    • What is a 1098-E? This form documents the interest that you may have paid on your student loans throughout the year.
      • Any interest you paid is tax deductible!
    • Where can I find it? Log into the account you have with your student loan provider (the site where you pay your loans).
      • Common student loan providers are Nelnet, Navient, FedLoan Servicing, Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, etc. You can find an extended list of federal student loan servicers here.

If you do not know who your student loan servicer is you can use the National Student Loan Data System and log in with your FSA ID, here.

  • Investment forms ( 1099’s)***

    • What is it? If you have a brokerage account with investments, then you will receive these forms every year. You can find more info on what these are here.

    • Where can I find it? By logging into your brokerage account and looking at your “statements” or “tax forms”.

      • Popular brokers are Vanguard, Robinhood, Acorns, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, Edward Jones. You can find an extended list here.

*** You will NOT need any forms for your 401k. You will be taxed on these contributions in retirement and they have already been deducted from the earnings reported on your W2.

If you collect most of these forms, you are 85% of the way done with filing your taxes! And you would’ve had to collect them anyways if you were using a tax preparer. So it only makes sense to finish filling yourself and save some money, right?

Step 3

Start filling out your tax return on the site that you’ve chosen!

You can also do them by paper but… why would you do that to yourself?

This will probably only take you an hour or so if you’ve already collected all the documents you need. I usually do this in short sittings to give myself time to think of any forms I may have forgotten. A missed form can mean a missed taxed credit or deduction, and nobody wants that!

Step 4

Slap that Submit button

But first, go to my youtube channel and slap that Subscribe button!

This is clearly the most challenging and time-consuming part of the process…

Step 5

Profit.

Usually, the IRS processes tax returns for electronic filers within two weeks. When I submit through taxfreeusa.com, I usually receive mine in even less time.

As I mentioned in my net worth report, I am expecting a 4.5k tax refund this year! The IRS has an app called IRS2Go that allows me to track my refund as it gets approved and sent out.

Disclaimer: Most of the links in this post are to additional resources you might find useful. Some of these links are for products that I am affiliated with because I utilize the product myself, if you click these links I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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