How to Successfully Prepare Your Taxes Yourself

Terry Selb

June 15, 2023

How to Successfully Prepare Your Taxes Yourself - Terry Selb

Tax season can be daunting for many individuals, but with the right guidance and knowledge, preparing your taxes yourself can save you time and money. While it may seem overwhelming, taking charge of your tax preparation can give you a better understanding of your financial situation and empower you to make informed decisions. This article will outline a step-by-step guide to preparing your taxes independently and confidently.

Step 1: Gather All Relevant Documents

Before diving into the tax preparation process, ensure you have all the documents readily available. Some key documents you will likely need include:

  • W-2 forms: These forms summarize your income from employment.
  • 1099 forms report income from freelance work, investments, or other sources.
  • Receipts for deductible expenses: Gather receipts for medical costs, educational fees, charitable donations, and more.
  • Bank and investment statements: Collect statements showing interest earned, dividends received, and other relevant financial information.

By having these documents organized and accessible, you can streamline the tax preparation process and minimize the chances of missing important information.

Step 2: Determine Your Filing Status

Your filing status determines the tax rates and deductions you are eligible for. The most common filing statuses are single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child. Choose the filing status that best applies to your situation, as it will affect your tax liability.

Step 3: Choose the Appropriate Tax Form

The type of tax form you use depends on your income, deductions, and credits. The three primary forms are:

  • Form 1040 is the standard individual income tax return form for most taxpayers.
  • Form 1040A is for individuals with simpler financial situations and fewer deductions.
  • Form 1040EZ: The simplest form, suitable for taxpayers with no dependents and minimal income.

Select the form that corresponds to your financial situation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website provides detailed instructions for each state, helping you navigate the process smoothly.

Step 4: Calculate Your Income and Deductions

Accurately calculating your income and deductions is crucial for determining your tax liability. Carefully report your total income, including wages, self-employment earnings, interest, dividends, and other sources. Deductible expenses, such as mortgage interest, student loan interest, and medical expenses, can reduce your taxable income. Remember that tax laws and regulations may change, so it’s essential to stay current.

Step 5: Utilize Tax Software or Online Tools

Tax software programs and online tools can simplify the tax preparation process significantly. Popular options such as TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxAct offer user-friendly interfaces and step-by-step guidance. These tools often have built-in error checks and calculations, minimizing the chances of mistakes. Additionally, they help you identify potential deductions and credits you may have overlooked, ensuring you receive all the tax benefits you’re entitled to.

Step 6: Review and File Your Tax Return

Once you’ve completed your tax return, take the time to review it carefully for accuracy. Double-check that all the information is entered correctly and that all necessary schedules and forms are attached. Mistakes can lead to delays in processing your return or potential audit triggers.

Finally, choose your preferred method of filing—electronically or by mail. E-filing is generally faster and more convenient, and it also confirms receipt. If you mail your return, ensure you send it via certified mail to have proof of timely filing.


Preparing your taxes yourself is achievable with the right tools and knowledge. By gathering the necessary documents, selecting the appropriate tax form, and using tax software or online tools, you can simplify the process and better understand your financial situation. Remember to review your return carefully for accuracy and file it on time. With these steps, you can confidently tackle tax season, potentially saving time and money.