On the least popular day of the year, April 15, you will be required by federal and state governments to file a tax “return” for the previous year. The return will list your income and any allowed deductions or credits against that income. You’ll then figure out the tax you owe. If the amount is less than the amount withheld during the year, you’ll get a refund check. If it is more, you must send in the difference.
To complete your return, you will have three major choices:
- Obtain the tax forms and instructions yourself from the IRS or state tax department and, following the instructions, complete the form on your own.
- Use tax preparation software, either physically-purchased or downloaded from the Internet, in which case the software will create and print out the required forms already filled in with your data.
- Hire an outside tax preparer, accountant, or tax preparation service to do your taxes. These commonly will have forms on hand.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to sign the forms, include payment if applicable, attach your W2 form (statement of earnings and withholding), and send the package in to the respective agencies.
While you can hire people at very reasonable cost to fill out your tax returns for you, there is no substitute for knowing as much as possible about the tax filing process and the tax system in general.
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