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A guide for first-time taxpayers

While the prospect of filing your first tax return to the IRS can be daunting, these tips can help you avoid any pitfalls.

The prospect of filing your first tax return

The prospect of filing your first tax return to the IRS can be overwhelming. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/duckycards

What is it about filling out forms of any kind that can induce dread and fear in some young people? And worse, what if it has something to do with the IRS? 

Admittedly, filing a tax return for the first time can be intimidating. 

So, exhale, take a deep breath in, and check out this guide of sorts for tax-filing virgins.

Report all income

Even if you didn't receive a 1099-Misc form for any self-employment income, you still must report it.  

“There's no such thing as ‘off-the-books’ — that’s considered tax evasion," says Abby Eisenkraft, CEO of Choice TaxSolutions in Melville. "Not a good way to start!”

Speak with your parents

Are they still claiming you as a dependent? If so, be sure you have your correct filing status, and that you (and they) are taking the correct and allowable deductions and credits for things like school tuition and fees, and student loan interest, for example.

Do you qualify for free tax prep?

 Dean Ferraro, co-founder of Authoritax.com, shares a secret: “If you make less than $60,000, the VITA program, sponsored by the IRS and available nationwide, can help you for free.” 

Get it right

Gather all relevant paperwork, such as mail marked “Important Tax Documents.” Read information from sources like IRS Pub 17 when it’s released, and the 1040 form instructions for 2018. Input actual numbers and don’t round beyond the IRS instructions on rounding (basically cents rounding up or down to the next dollar).

“The devil is in the details," says Gene Bell, president of Gene Bell & Associates, a provider of financial services in Bellingham, Washington. "Review your return before submitting, making sure that all information is accurate and complete.”

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