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It’s Never Too Late or Too Early to Start Your Taxes

It’s Never Too Late or Too Early to Start Your Taxes

    We are now 15 days into what we all know here in the US as “Tax Season”. And no matter how well prepared you are or think you are for this time of year, fear and overwhelm can definitely set in.

    If you are sitting back thinking to yourself, “I have until April 17th. That’s like, what? Two months, right?” you are the prime case of someone that should start your taxes today. Here is a simple run down to help you get your taxes done before the tax man comes and beats down your door.

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    Preparation

    Mind you, I am no “tax guru”. Ask my wife. I also don’t have very complicated taxes to prepare, although that has changed a bit since I have taken on some consulting and writing work in the last year. That being said, here are some simple preparations to do your taxes yourself:

    1. Collect – Yep, sort of like GTD. Make sure that you have all of your W2 forms as well as any type of forms sent to you from school, or supplemental income forms (invoices, receipts, etc.). Just gather everything up in a folder and make sure you have it all in once place. You could even scan it in and keep it digitally. If you have any information from your spouse that is needed, grab that too.
    2. Double check – Sit down with all of your paperwork and make sure that it is all there. Make a note of anything missing or anything that is incorrect about the paperwork and start calling around to get your questions answered. If you have paperwork that doesn’t match up to paperwork sent from your employer, take care of it immediately.
    3. If your taxes are relatively simple (a handful of W2s and maybe some supplemental income) then block out at least 3 hours to complete them as well as 1 more hour a day or two later to review them before submitting them. It’s good to give yourself a little time after filling them out to make sure everything is correct and accurate.

    Execution

    There are some great apps nowadays that can help you take care of your taxes. The most popular being TurboTax, yet there have been new apps that have sprung-up the last few years that work just as well.

    One such piece of software was presented to me from a friend called FreeTaxUSA. It’s all done online, which can always be a little scary, but I and many others haven’t had any issue. The nice thing about FreeTaxUSA is that Federal Income Tax e-filing is free and State filing is only $9.99. FreeTaxUSA also keeps your information for the next year so you don’t have to do as much work, allows you to print out and save your filed taxes, and gives you all the information that you would need if you were audited (even audit assistance for a small fee). Not too shabby.

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    Working through FreeTaxUSA is pretty easy, especially for people that don’t have complicated taxes. However, I did have a little trouble this year taking care of my “business income” from all of my side work. I don’t think that it was the software’s fault; more of an “I’m sort of new to this and I don’t really know what I’m doing” type of problem.

    If you are struggling using the self-service tax apps, then maybe someone that you know who is knowledgeable can help you out. Or, there is always just biting the bullet and taking them to a professional.

    Re-preparation

    If you had a rough time preparing your taxes this year, start keeping track of and organizing your information today for next year’s dreaded tax season. We have talked about going paperless this year, so a good thing to do would be invest in a decent scanner and start digitizing all of your important documents. This will keep your stress level down to a minimum during tax season 2013.

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    Another good thing to do if you make some money on the side, would be to use a tool like FreshBooks to keep track of all of your invoicing. It’s a great to make the difficult act of invoicing not that difficult. It also gives you full functionality for three clients for free. FreshBooks is quite the helpful tool at tax time for anyone that has their own business or side work.

    Just remember to try and keep track of everything that will be used for next year’s taxes. Add a reminder to your weekly review to “tie up tax’s loose ends”. This will keep you sane next year.

    Conclusion

    Yes, tax season does suck. And not just because you have to give the Government all of your money, but because it can be stressful and fear-inducing, especially when you don’t know what you are doing. But remember; it’s only scary and overwhelming if you let it be. Instead, prepare for your taxes, execute, and re-prepare every year to reduce the “tax season overwhelm”.

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    (Photo credit: Dollar concept with silver dollar via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 15, 2018

    30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

    30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

    Summertime can be a real strain on your wallet. The sun is out, there are people to see, places to be; it’s no wonder you might be short of funds during these sunny months. Not everything has to cost you an arm and a leg.

    Take some time to go through this list of 20 cheap summer activities and make some realistic goals to complete as many as you can.

    Video Summary

    1. Visit a strawberry festival

    Summer is prime time for tasting strawberries. More often than not, an area that grows strawberries will have a strawberry festival. Indulge yourself in strawberry pies, jams, cakes and more!

    2. Have a picnic

    Take your partner or your family to the local park and enjoy a relaxing picnic. Designate each person to bring one food item of their choice to add to the fun.

    3. Camp in your back yard

      The summer heat can sometimes make it hard to sleep. Why not enjoy the heat outside in the yard? Pitch a tent or gaze into the night sky.

      4. Take long walks

      Discover something new where you live. Take the afternoon off from your chores and go for a long walk. You may be surprised by what you discover.

      5. Break a world record

      Breaking a world record doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You could even break one on your lunch hour. Give it a go!

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      6. Go on a bike ride

      The number of bike paths on roads in big cities has increased dramatically over the years. Take advantage, and enjoy the summer breeze.

      7. Join a gym class

        The gym is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but why not go with a friend a join a class? Spinning, yoga and step classes are always more fun with friends, and a lot of gyms allow you to pay-as-you-go.

        8. Find a new hobby

        The summer is the perfect time to find a new hobby. Serotonin (our body’s natural “happy” hormone) is produced by the sunshine and will be at a yearly high, which is great for when we want to tackle something new.

        9. Join a sports team

        Not all sports teams are competitive and require huge amounts of your time. Join in the fun with like-minded people, get fit, stay healthy and make some friends along the way.

        10. Make a slip ‘n slide

          Gather your friends, some plastic sheeting, a hose, washing up liquid if desired, and make a huge slip ‘n slide just like these guys. Granted, yours won’t be as big, but you get the idea… it’s fun!

          11. Make a treasure hunt for your kids

          Today’s digital world sees our children more often than not playing inside than outside. Why not create a sense of adventure by making a treasure hunt? Only rule? It has to be outside.

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          12. Visit a free festival

          Towns and cities are awash with free festivals, with themes from film to science. Scout your local area and discover something new.

          13. Visit the zoo

            Let’s face it: we love animals. While browsing news websites and social media networks you’re bound to come across a few pictures of cats. Take a trip to your local zoo for a better experience.

            14. Take a road trip

            Enjoy the open road with a few friends and take a road trip somewhere–anywhere. Just go out and enjoy the sunshine!

            15. Play ultimate frisbee in the park

              Frisbee is always great fun down the park, but why not turn it into more of a competitive sport by playing ultimate frisbee?

              16. Make your own ice cream

              Ice cream is a very versatile dessert. Make a sandwich, enjoy a cone, or simply just enjoy a bowl full. Better yet, making your own ice cream allows you to create any flavor you want.

              17. Invite your neighbors over for a BBQ

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                When was the last time you invited your neighbors over? Do you even know them? Now’s your chance. Just ask each person to bring a food item so costs don’t mount up for you.

                18. Get a summer job

                For many students, summer is the time for relaxation and fun. But who said earning money and being productive isn’t fun? You only get out what you put into a situation.

                19. Attend a charity event

                Attending a charity event is a great way to raise funds and awareness for a cause, meet new people, and generally have a good time. Search for your local charity event today.

                20. Visit a national park

                National parks are a great way to explore nature and learn something new. You could even volunteer and make a difference in helping restore natural habitats.

                21. Visit your local comedy club

                  Local comedy clubs are extremely underrated. They are cheap to attend and no doubt you’ll have a barrel of laughs.

                  22. Make your own hammock

                    Hammocks are very relaxing, are perfect for summer afternoons and are surprisingly easy to make.

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                    23. Read in your new hammock

                    Now you have your very own hammock, the only thing left to do is enjoy it. Grab your favorite book and read to your heart’s content.

                    24. Watch a movie outside

                    Movies are great. Relaxing outside in the evening is great. Put them together and you’ve got a perfect combination. In D.C, Maryland and Virginia this summer, for example, you can enjoy a huge number of movies outside.

                    25. Take a hike

                      Hikes are a great way to keep fit and see more of Mother Nature. There are countless trails available for you to explore. Why not try some this summer?

                      26. Learn how to fly a kite

                      As a child, you probably had a kite and haven’t touched it since. Why not dust it off and attempt to fly it? It’s tricky, but well worth the challenge.

                      27. Work out at the park

                      American cities are full of parks with ample space for a work out session. No doubt you’ll be happier to work out in the sun rather than a crowded gym.

                      28. Take your dog to the beach

                        One of the many joys of owning a dog is taking him or her for long walks during the summertime. This joy is enhanced when visiting the beach, for both you and your dog.

                        29. Make a summer smoothie

                        Healthy, delicious and perfect for the summer. Not only that, there are countless recipes ready for you to try.

                        30. Attend a free yoga session at the beach

                        No experience needed and all skill levels are welcome. Take yourself and a buddy down to the beach and try some yoga. You’ve got nothing to lose!

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