It’s easy to streamline your tax chores each April. All it takes is a bit of planning and the willingness to crunch a few numbers. Consumers can save money by doing their own taxes, particularly if they have just one or two sources of income, don’t own a business and don’t have complex financial situations.

It’s usually not a good idea to do your own taxes if you have complicated investment arrangements, already owe money to the IRS, or received money from a life settlement company, like Mason Finance, for example. In those kinds of situations, turn to a CPA, Enrolled Agent or a tax attorney for tax filing assistance. But if you’re tax return is not going to require professional attention, then use the following steps to make sure everything turns out for the best:

Find Last Year’s Return


You can save yourself a ton of time and more than a few headaches by locating your previous year’s return. In most cases, you’ll be able to use the information from that document to create this year’s return more accurately. At a glance, you’ll see what you paid, what your income was and whether there were any extra items that need to be dealt with. At a minimum, you’ll be able to compare W-2 wages and determine whether your tax bill or refund, will be changing this year.

Gather Every Pertinent Document

For filers with simple returns, this category of documents will include W-2s, any 1099-MISC forms, interest statements from banks or brokers, and Social Security statements. If you worked several jobs, or have a spouse who did, then be sure to have all the paperwork in front of you before starting to fill out the tax return. Nothing is more frustrating than getting 90 percent through your filing chores and having to stop to hunt for a missing W-2. Like a good cook who assembles all the necessary ingredients and utensils before starting out, you should get everything you need and put it within reach before making a single click on the calculator or entering any numbers into your tax software.

Use a Simple Software Program


There are several major players in the world of online tax preparation. The better ones allow you to use their systems to figure your taxes without paying their filing fees. You can simply log on, enter your data into the program, save it at the end, and then log out without actually becoming a customer. You won’t get access to any of the extras, like free e-filing or audit support, but you will get your taxes checked by a reliable program.

E-File for Free at IRS.Gov

The federal government now allows most taxpayers to file for free at the IRS website. This electronic filing system is relatively new and has been upgraded to make it simpler and remove the bugs that were present when it first went live. You can’t file state returns through the IRS system, so you’ll have to paper file those unless your state has a free system.