If you're taking the time to read this, then I can safely say two things about you. First of all, you're off to a good start — at the very least you're interested in getting your taxes done. Second, you're probably not one of those people who know so much they don't need any help in the first place.
So here, for your hopeful benefit, are six tips about taxes. Consider these a helpful reminder:
1. Start early.
Get everything ready so that when your W-2's arrive, you can just click "send," or head to the accountant's office in hopes that you're going to get a bit back. Even if you think you're going to owe taxes, getting it done early enough will help you know how much you owe so you can have time to get it together. You don't have to actually file until April 1st, and even then you can ask for an extension. Either way, get out from under it as soon as you can. You probably have other things that you need to be worrying about.
Note: Your employer is required by law to give you your W-2 by February 1st.
2. Be honest.
It's not so much even a question of whether you're going to get caught, but who needs the stress of worrying about whether you will be. This goes particularly for exemptions, especially that home office you run out of a drawer in your kitchen. Read the rules. If it's unclear, then see #6 below.
3. Be organized / keep your records straight.
Going back to #1 above. Start now. Get everything you are going to need ready before you start, from W-2's to receipts — even the social security numbers of your kids.
4. Keep it simple.
If possible, go for the 1040 EZ — it doesn't get any more simple than that. If you have a lot of exemptions, get help. (See #5 below.)
5. Don't be afraid to get help if you need it.
If your finances are more complicated than the 1040 EZ can handle, go to an online software like Turbo-Tax or a tax professional like H&R Block. You could certainly do it yourself, but if you are that confident, you're probably not searching the web right now on how to do your taxes.
6. Ask questions.
At least ask your friends. Don't try to figure it out on your own. There is plenty of free other help out there for the taking. You can even ask the IRS.
These tips are not intended to replace the advice of a tax professional. Please see an accountant for tax questions, concerns, and preparation services.