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It seems extremely unfair that, along with all the new financial issues brought about by a worldwide pandemic, we’re still expected to keep up with the usual chores like taxes. If you’ve managed to make this far into 2021 without thinking about taxes, consider this article a slow, undemanding re-introduction to the topic. There are ways you can make this tax season a little bit easier for yourself and make the process as close to pain-free as possible. Here are five suggestions that can help you get started:

  1. Get a folder started

Not to get too crazy but having a dedicated space for all those tax forms that have probably started arriving in your mail will help a lot. Your employer(s) will send you tax forms, along with any institution where you have brokerage, retirement, or investment accounts. If you’re a student, you will also receive a tuition or fees statement (or you can print it out yourself, if you’re feeling ambitious). Mortgages, student loans, medical loans, and all other kinds of long-term debt also require documentation. If you have children, having childcare expenses and 529 plan contributions printed out will also come in handy. If it sounds like too much to keep track of, just having a folder and a checklist to fill out may be enough to get you going for now.

  1. Create an IRS account

Did you know that you could create an online account with the IRS that lets you quickly and securely see relevant tax information? You can view things like:

You can also:

Sign up here

  1. Put deadlines in your calendar

Tax Day has returned to April 15, the traditional deadline for filing federal income taxes. It was pushed forward to July 15 in 2020 because of the pandemic. You’ll need to have your return postmarked by midnight on April 15.

April 15 isn’t the only tax day to mark on your 2021 calendar. February 12, 2021 is the first day the IRS started accepting and processing federal income tax forms for the 2020 tax year.  The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.

Finally, if you’re self-employed, your estimated taxes quarterly payments are due April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15, 2022.

It’s also a great idea to block off a weekend in your calendar where your main goal will be doing nothing other than completing your tax return. If you need to make an appointment with a tax preparer, do so now (and also add that to your calendar).

  1. Consider how you will file your taxes

Most people these days file their returns electronically, and there are several excellent tax preparation software programs such as TaxACT, TurboTax, and H&R Block that can make the process easier. One way to pick would be to see if your employer, union, or professional group offers discounts on tax preparation software.

If you qualify, you may also use IRS Free File to prepare and file your federal income tax online for, well, free. According to the IRS website, traditional IRS Free File provides free online tax preparation and filing options on IRS partner sites. The partners are online tax preparation companies that develop and deliver this service at no cost to qualifying taxpayers. For now, only taxpayers whose adjusted gross income (or AGI) is $72,000 or less qualify for IRS Free File partner offers.

Whether this is your first year filing your own taxes or it’s been a couple decades, there is sometimes a sense of dread or procrastination around tax season. This year, eliminate the complications and be as prepared as possible by following these simple steps to get everything set up.