If this is the first year you’re filing a federal tax return, the process may seem a little overwhelming.

But when you know where to start, what your options are and what you’ll need beforehand, you’re in a better position to file with confidence and take steps to maximize your federal refund.

Here’s some crucial info on current tax deadlines, what forms you need to complete your return and how to file your 2019 taxes with success

Can I file my own taxes?

Regardless of your income, withholdings and tax situation, you have the right to complete and file your own federal income tax return. While a professional tax preparer can help you navigate the tax code and capitalize on available tax advantages, you are in no way obligated to seek assistance or hire someone to get your taxes done.

When do I need to file a tax return?

You need to file an income tax return when you make or exceed a certain level of income during the tax year. You must also file a return to claim any refund you may be owed by the IRS. This brief IRS survey can help you determine if you’re required to complete and file a return for 2019.

Once you’ve confirmed that you need to file, it’s crucial to learn existing tax deadlines and gather the info you need to file your tax return on time.  

When should I file my taxes?

To avoid late filing penalties and fees, it’s important to file your tax return by or before the federal tax filing deadline. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the deadline to file your 2019 taxes has recently been pushed back from April 15 to July 15, 2020, providing extra time to prepare your return.

If you need more time beyond the current deadline to get your taxes done, you may file a tax extension with the IRS. Filing Form 4868 by July 15 will provide you until October 15, 2020, to complete your 2019 return.

Can I file my taxes now?

Yes. You may file your federal tax return now or any time before the July 15 deadline. While not mandatory, the IRS is currently recommending filing your return as soon as possible.

What do I need to file my taxes?

What you need to file your taxes depends mainly on your tax situation, sources of income and any tax breaks you’re looking to claim for the previous tax year. This includes any and all records of your 2019 income, a copy of last year’s tax return, relevant receipts and all appropriate tax forms required by the Internal Revenue Service.

What forms do I need to file my taxes?

The forms you need to file your tax return may include:

  • W-2s – If you worked part- or full-time for an employer in 2019, you likely received one or more W-2 Forms detailing what you earned and what taxes were withheld during the year.
  • 1099s – 1099 Forms provide info on what you earned from freelance or contract work (1099-MISC), investment interest (1099-INT), investment dividends (1099-DIV) and other sources of income.
  • Form 1040 – Since the 2018 tax year, Form 1040 and adjoining schedules are what you need to report income, how much you owe, and info on any credits and deductions you’re claiming on your federal return.

Other documents you may need to do your taxes include receipts for things like business expenses, medical bills and charitable donations – as well as statements detailing investments, student loan payments, etc. Keeping such paperwork handy can make claiming deductions and itemizing expenses a whole lot easier.

How do I file my taxes?

You have several options for filing your federal income tax return with the IRS.

These include:

  1. Filing your taxes manually

You may file your taxes yourself by 1) filling out Form 1040, 2) mailing that form, schedules and all required paperwork (W2s, 1099s, etc.) to your local IRS office. Be sure to include any tax payments you owe the government alongside your federal return.

  1. Using tax prep software

A trusted online tax prep program makes filing your taxes and paying what you owe fast and easy. The right tax software provides a simple, step-by-step process for inputting your info, identifying deductions, completing your 1040 and ensuring your return is filed with the IRS as quickly as possible. 

  1. Working with a professional

Working with a seasoned local tax pro or accountant is one of the best ways to navigate complicated tax laws and determine which tax credits, deductions and other advantages can minimize your income tax burden. A local pro can also help ensure you meet critical tax deadlines while reducing the likelihood of facing penalties or an audit down the road.

Note: While using the first method to file your taxes is free, submitting your return by mail may delay processing and, by extension, when you receive your federal refund. In most cases, e-filing your return – and choosing direct deposit – means shorter processing times, while working with a professional may help correct mistakes and root out potential tax breaks often missed when taxes are done on your own.

In either scenario, it’s important to remember that any taxes you owe are due by the tax deadline. If you’re unable to pay that balance all at once, the IRS provides options for setting up a payment plan (though you’ll still likely face a failure-to-pay penalty).  

How do I file my state taxes?

Because the IRS does not process state tax returns – and because most state taxes, credits and deductions differ from those at the federal level – you will need to file your state and federal returns separately. To learn more about your state’s taxation and return filing process, visit your state government website.

The following states don’t have income tax and don’t require you to file a state return:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

What’s the next step?

If you’re new to filing taxes and could use some a little guidance, we’re here to help.

Liberty Tax® offers professional and online tax prep solutions to get you ready for the tax deadline. We work to take the stress out of filing your taxes and getting the refund your family deserves.

Call your local Liberty Tax® office today to learn more.

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