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9 tips for filing stress-free tax returns

You may have heard that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean either of them are easy! We asked A&F tax guru Mary Fortier to share some of her tips to make this year’s filing a little less stressful. Her great ideas below…

Mary Fortier

By Mary Fortier

The 2014 tax season opened on January 31, 2014 and will stay open until April 15, 2014. While taxes can seem complicated, it’s important to file every year because failing to do so voids the normal statute of limitations for tax audits, putting you at a long-term risk for time-consuming (and headache-inducing!) audits. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to help take the stress out of tax filing.

What to consider before you file:

  • You should always file your federal tax return first, then your state return.
  • Before filing, make sure you’ve received all your tax reporting forms (such as W-2, 1099, 1098-T).  If you’re missing one, contact your employer (for your W-2), financial or educational institution to get it.
  • If you plan to use a tax preparer in Maryland, make sure they are registered with the Maryland State Board and have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). This is required to prepare Maryland tax returns.

When you’re ready to file:

  • If you’re preparing your own tax return, take a look at the IRS’s Publication 17, which walks you through filing your 2013 federal taxes. There are also specific category guides which are helpful with individual needs, such as if you’re separated or divorced, make charitable contributions, or have sold your home.
  • The state of Maryland has similar tax filing guides and information here.
  • If you learn better by listening, the IRS has a range of helpful YouTube videos that offer tax advice on topics like what do do when your W-2 is missing, how to use the Education Tax Credit, and when you will get your refund.
  •  If you’re still struggling for answers, the IRS FAQ page and MD FAQ page are helpful, or you can call 1-800-829-1040 for federal tax questions and 1-800-MD TAXES for Maryland tax questions.

If you’re running late, or have a problem with your return…

  • If you can’t make the April 15 filing deadline, apply for an extension to avoid problems with the IRS.
  • If you submit your tax return and then realize you made a mistake, complete Form 1040X to amend the return.

And finally, some great free tax prep resources…

  • You can file your MD tax return for free using iFile.
  • If you make less than $58,000 a year, the Free File Alliance will allow you to e-file your federal tax return for free using brand-name tax software.
  • Also, the Baltimore Cash Campaign provides free tax preparation services for individual and families with incomes under $52,000.
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