Switching to online tax software to file your taxes this year? Welcome to the club! It’s a pretty large crowd. In fact, the IRS reported that around 152 million tax returns were filed online during the 2022 filing season. And about 44% of those online filers were folks like you—taking care of their own taxes using tax software.1
It’s no surprise so many people use tax software to file their taxes—it’s an easy and convenient option if you have a simple tax situation. Plus, software lets you do your taxes from the comfort of your living room couch while wearing your most comfortable PJs and sipping your favorite fancy espresso. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning!
Filing online is a winner if your tax situation isn’t too complicated, so let’s talk about how you can get the most out of your tax software so your filing experience is as uncomplicated and smooth as possible.
1. Track income and expenses as you go.
If you’re self-employed, have a side gig, or do independent contractor work, make sure you keep good records of your income and expenses throughout the year. You’ll need those numbers to file your taxes accurately, so make sure you have a system to organize all your receipts and statements. You could go old school and keep physical copies in a manila folder or save them digitally on your computer—the choice is yours!
If you use paper receipts for your business, it’s a great idea to invest in a scanner so you can have digital copies of everything as well. You’ll be reporting those numbers to the IRS on a Schedule C form. So as your receipts come in, go ahead and label them. Keep all your business receipts together in a file. That way you’ll know exactly where all your receipts and statements are when you’re ready to start filing!
2. Gather your tax documents in advance.
Whether you’re self-employed or not, one of the easiest ways to make your online tax filing experience go as smoothly as possible is to do a bit of prep work before you start filing. Gather up all your tax documents and any tax-relevant records you’ve been keeping. Having those documents organized and ready to go can save you a lot of stress and time when you sit down to open your tax software for the first time.
Here are some of the more common tax forms and documents you might need:
- Form 1098s, Mortgage Interest Statements
- Investment income statements
- Charitable contributions statements and receipts
If you’ve gone through a major life change this year—maybe you moved to a new state or welcomed a new baby into the family—you might need to add a few more documents to your list:
- Form 8822 (to change your address if you moved)
- SS-5 (if you changed your name)
- W-4 (to adjust tax withholdings based on your new household income)
If you still haven’t received your tax statements or can’t find them online, call the necessary people to be sure you receive them as soon as possible so you can get started on your taxes.
To help you get all your ducks in a row, download our free tax preparation checklist.
- Start the filing process early.
Procrastination is a real struggle, and it’s easy to put off the not-so-fun things in life. If you procrastinate filing your taxes, you certainly aren’t alone—about 25% of Americans file their taxes in the last two weeks leading up to Tax Day.2,3
Don’t settle for tax software with hidden fees or agendas. Use one that’s on your side—Ramsey SmartTax.
But when it comes to doing your taxes, waiting until the last minute usually means less confidence that your taxes got done right and more stress. The solution? Start prepping early. Give yourself time to get all your documents organized so you can start the filing process with your tax software.
One of the perks of using software is that most will allow you to save your progress if you need to step away or come back and continue working on your return another day. But if you wait until the last possible minute, you might not have that extra time. Talk about stressful!
And let’s get one thing straight: Ignoring your tax obligation won’t make it go away. Olga M. made that mistake twice and vows never to let it happen again: “For the past two years we have filed on October 15, late. Why? Because I’ve been unorganized and haven’t prioritized. The results? I’ve wasted $150–200 in interest.”
Maybe you’re hesitant to get started on your taxes because of how much you might owe Uncle Sam. We get it. Owing the IRS can be scary. But the longer you wait to file, the more penalties and interest you’ll rack up. The sooner you file, the less you’ll have to pay!
3. Follow your tax software’s instructions.
Remember the good ol’ days before GPS, when you had to print out directions to go on a road trip? Those step-by-step directions were lifesavers! But if you missed a step or those directions got lost somewhere in the bottomless pit of your minivan back seats, you and your carefree trip to the beach were toast.
Following each turn-by-turn step was important if you wanted to reach your destination as smoothly as possible, and it’s the same with today’s online tax software.
Your software will ask you for information from your receipts and tax forms in a particular order. It will ask you questions, and you provide the answers. Then it will take those answers and put them into the correct lines on your tax return(s) and use them to make the correct calculations.
Some tax software will have navigation tools that let you skip a question and come back to it later. If you do that, though, it’s a good idea to go through the software’s entire filing process first and then go back to answer any missed questions.
Also, make sure you take advantage of your tax software’s final review option to double-check that you’ve entered all your information and not skipped any information you need to provide (we’ll talk more about this final review option below).
4. Take advantage of help resources.
Most tax software starts out by asking easy questions about yourself (or the taxpayer you’re filing for)—taxpayer name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, and occupation.
Then it’ll ask if certain situations apply to you, like whether you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, or whether you were affected by a natural disaster this year. These questions allow the software to get a better handle on your tax situation and find any tax deductions and tax credits you might qualify for.
If you get to a question you don’t understand or just want a little more information about it, most tax software will offer some extra guidance, like helpful definitions or explanations of complex tax terms.
And if you get really stuck and want some professional help, most tax software will give you the option of chatting or speaking with an expert, but be careful—sometimes there’s a fee for this one-on-one help. The software might bump you up to their more expensive plan if you use their tax expert service. To avoid any surprise fees like this, check out the different pricing plans your tax software offers before starting. You’ll find the plans listed with their features on the tax software’s website.
5. Review before you file.
Have you ever sent an email or text and immediately regretted it? Maybe you caught a mistake too late or wished you could delete the whole message . . . yeah, we’ve all been there. Instead of buyer’s remorse, we’ll call it sender’s remorse.
Mistakes are easy to make, and it’s no different with doing your taxes online. You’re dealing with all these forms and numbers and calculations, so don’t beat yourself up if you slip up from time to time. But here’s one of the best things about using online tax software: Most software will prompt you to do a quick but thorough final review before you actually file your federal return (and your state return if you have to file state income taxes).
This is your chance to double-check all your information, numbers and calculations to make sure everything looks right. The software will also check for any more tax credits or deductions you may qualify for before you file. It could take a few extra minutes, but don’t skip this review. It’s worth the time if it gives you peace of mind that you got everything right. No sender’s remorse required!
Get Your Taxes Done Right
If you’re looking for budget-friendly software that can help you file your taxes with confidence, look no further than Ramsey SmartTax. This easy-to-follow online tax software will walk you through the filing process and help you figure out exactly how much you owe Uncle Sam.
Ramsey SmartTax also makes it super easy to claim any deductions and credits you may qualify for. That way, you can keep more of the money you’ve worked so hard for throughout the year.
If your taxes are a little more complicated and you feel like you need a tax expert, get in touch with one of our RamseyTrusted tax pros. They can answer any questions you have and help get your taxes done right the first time.