- The 2024 tax season has already begun.
- We’ve got tips for filing your taxes.
- Here’s everything you need to know.
The 2024 tax season began January 29 in the U.S.
For many people filing a tax return — especially if it’s their first time — can be an overwhelming task, often left until the last minute.
But if you want to avoid the stress of an impending deadline, start getting organized as soon as possible.
Whether you file your tax return yourself or hire a professional, navigating the tax system can be complicated and stressful.
Filing your taxes is easier than you think
Courtney Alev, a consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma, recommends taking it easy.
«Take a breath. Take some time, set out an hour, or go through it over the weekend. You’ll hopefully see that it’s a lot simpler than you think,» she told The Associated Press.
If the process seems too confusing, there are many free resources that can help you get through it.
Here are some key points you need to know about the 2024 tax season, according to The Associated Press.
When is the deadline for filing your taxes?
Taxpayers have until April 15 to file their 2023 returns.
But what do you need to file your tax return? The required documents depend on your individual case, but there are some that most people will need.
You need your social security number, W-2 forms if you are employed, 1099-G if you are unemployed, 1099 forms if you are self-employed, as well as savings and investment records.
You also need proof of any itemized deductions. These can include educational expenses, medical bills, charitable donations and tax credits such as the child tax credit.
What other documents will you need?
Tom O’Saben, director of tax content and government relations at the National Association of Tax Professionals, recommends gathering all your documents in one place before starting your tax return.
He also recommends having your documents from last year if your financial situation has changed significantly.
O’Saben suggests that taxpayers create an IRS identity protection PIN to guard against identity theft.
Once you create a number, the IRS will require it for you to file your tax return.
How do I file my taxes?
You can file your taxes online or by paper mail. However, there is a significant difference in processing times between the two options.
The IRS may take up to six months to process a paper return, whereas if you file electronically, processing only takes about three weeks.
For those earning $79,000 or less per year, the IRS offers a free filing tool.
If you have questions while working on your tax forms, the IRS has an interactive tax assistant tool that can provide answers based on your information.
What resources are available?
Beyond popular companies like TurboTax and H&R Block, taxpayers can hire authorized professionals such as certified public accountants to prepare their returns.
The IRS offers a directory of tax preparers across the United States.
The IRS also funds two types of programs that provide free tax assistance: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program.
People earning $64,000 or less per year, those with disabilities or those who speak little English qualify for the VITA program.
How do I avoid mistakes on my return?
Many people fear getting into trouble with the IRS if they make a mistake. That’s why experts advise you to double-check your name on your Social Security card.
When working with clients, O’Saben always asks them to bring their Social Security card to verify their number and legal name, which can change when people get married.
«You may have changed your name but you didn’t change it with Social Security,» O’Saben said.
«If the Social Security number doesn’t match to the first four letters of the last name, the return will be rejected and that will delay processing.»
Look for tax statements when you have opted out of receiving paper mail.
Many people choose to opt out of receiving snail mail, which means their tax documents may only be available electronically.
«If you didn’t get anything in the mail doesn’t mean that there isn’t an information document out there that you need to be aware of and report accordingly,» said O’Saben.
Also, he stresses that you must report all your income. If you had more than one job in 2023, you will need W-2 forms or 1099s from each.
What about the child tax credit?
This month, Congress announced a bipartisan agreement to improve the current child tax credit. Currently, the tax credit is $2,000 per child, but only $1,600 is refundable.
The bill would gradually increase the maximum refundable amount of the child tax credit — $1,800 for 2023 tax returns, $1,900 for the following year and $2,000 for 2025 returns.
If this agreement materializes, approximately 16 million children from low-income families would benefit from this expansion of the child tax credit.
Lawmakers hope to pass this bill as soon as possible.
What if I make a mistake?
Mistakes happen, and the IRS takes different approaches depending on each case. Generally, if you make a mistake or something is missing from your tax records, the IRS will audit you, said Alev.
An audit means the IRS will ask you for more documentation.
«Generally, they are very understanding and willing to work with folks.»
«You’re not going to get arrested if you type in the wrong field,» Alev added.
What if I haven’t filed a return for years?
You can file your tax return late, and if you were supposed to receive a refund, you may still get it.
If you haven’t filed your return for years and owe money to the IRS, you may incur penalties, but the agency will work with you to establish payment plans.
It’s always a good practice to keep a record of your tax returns in case the IRS audits you for something you declared years ago.
O’Saben recommends keeping copies of your tax return documents for up to seven years.
How do I avoid scams?
Tax season is prime time for tax scams, O’Saben warned. These scams can be done by phone, text message, email and social media.
The IRS does not use any of those means to contact taxpayers. Sometimes even tax preparers are scammers, so it’s important to ask many questions.
If a tax preparer says you will get a bigger refund than you did in previous years, for example, that can be a red flag, O’Saben emphasized.
If you can’t see what your tax preparer is working on, get a copy of the tax return and ask questions about each entry.
How do I request an extension?
If you’re running out of time to file your tax return, you can request an extension. However, it’s important to remember that the extension is only for filing your taxes, not for paying them.
If you owe taxes, you must pay an estimated amount before the deadline to avoid paying fines and interest. If you expect a refund, you will still receive your money when you file your taxes.
Requesting an extension will give you until October 15 to file your taxes.
You can request an extension through your preferred tax software or preparer, the IRS Free File tool or by mail.
What happens if I file my return late?
If you missed the deadline to file your tax return and didn’t request an extension, there are several penalties you could face.
If you missed the deadline, you could receive a penalty for not filing the request. This penalty will be 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month the return is delayed, according to the IRS.
If you owe taxes and didn’t pay them before the deadline, you will receive a penalty for failure to pay. Additionally, you will be charged interest on both the taxes and the fines owed.
If you are owed a refund, you will not receive a penalty and will receive the refund. If you had special circumstances that prevented you from filing or paying your taxes on time, you may be able to have your fine waived or reduced.