Have you filed your 2018 taxes yet? Tax season is in full swing, and the deadline to get yours in is Monday, April 15. If you haven’t even begun to think about it, don’t worry. Here’s a rundown of what you need to get together so that you’re ready to file – without having to apply for an extension.

Decide if you need help

Preparing and filing taxes is one of those jobs that can be pretty easy to outsource. If the thought of all that paperwork makes your brain hurt, there are plenty of people out there who are willing to do the dirty work for you. Ask friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. The IRS also has some great resources to help you understand how to choose a tax preparer. Tax preparers are insanely busy this time of year, so as soon as you narrow down your list, make an appointment.

Gather all your returns

By now you’ve received all the returns that you will need to prepare your taxes. Make sure the information on each of them matches your records. There are many types of forms you may have received, but the most common are:

  • W-2s – from your job.
  • 1099s — for independent contractors.
  • Form 1095A — for health insurance.
  • 1098s – for interest paid on mortgages and student loans, or tuition payments.
  • W-2Gs – for gambling winnings (lucky you!).
  • Schedule K-1s – for those who have ownership in partnerships, LLCs, corporations, trusts or estates.

Get last year’s information together

Make sure you have a copy of your return from 2017. You will also need your driver’s license or ID card and your social security card or tax ID card. It also doesn’t hurt to have your passport handy.

Gather your receipts

Are you planning to itemize your deductions instead of taking the standard deduction? Then you need to get all your receipts ready. While you don’t need to send these in when you file, you will need them in case you are audited, so keep them together in a safe place. Some of the deductions you may be able to take include:

  • Expenses related to self-employment
  • Investment or rental property expenses
  • Property tax and real estate expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Charitable contributions
  • Childcare expenses
  • Moving expenses not covered by your employer
  • Expenses for state and local taxes
  • Expenses related to losses suffered because of a natural disaster

Determine how to handle a refund

Do you think you might get a refund this year? Then you’ll want to determine how you’d like the government to handle that. Here are your choices:

  • Have the refund deposited directly into a checking or savings account. Make sure you have all the account information available.
  • Have a check sent to you for the amount of the refund.
  • Have the money deposited into another kind of account, such as an IRA or a health savings account.
  • Have the money applied towards your next tax bill if you pay estimated taxes.

After completing all these steps, you may determine that you do need an extension after all. If you think you will owe, then you’ll want to pay that estimated amount or you’ll be on the hook for late fees. You can request a filing extension to October 15, 2019.

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