To do this, I looked at bookmarked posts, asked friends on Yakezie, and scoured even more of my favorite blogs and Google. The result – 37 awesome posts (plus this one, which clocks in at ~1,900 words).
Posts cover a wide range of topics. Not all of them are “how-to” in nature, but they’re all helpful in making tax decisions both when you’re filing your return this season and making decisions that have tax implications for 2012’s return.
Before you start reading, here’s the usual disclaimer: I’m not a a tax professional (and neither are most of the bloggers here), and you should seek professional advice before making any tax-related decisions. Also, some posts written in previous tax years and for previous tax years, so make sure to confirm that the information in these posts is still accurate.
Preparing to Do Your Tax Return
1. Getting Ready for Your Tax Return from DollarVersity
Helpful for: Saving time and stress later from dealing with taxes. It helps a great deal (and I’m really learning this now) to keep track of all your tax-related receipts and forms throughout the year rather than trying to gather them up at the end. Eric provides a great guide for making sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Doing Your Own Taxes
2. Should You Do Your Own Taxes? from DollarVersity
Helpful for: Determining if it makes sense to do your own taxes. Eric encourages using having an ongoing relationship with a professional to get your taxes done, and he discourages using storefront tax services.
3. Do Your Own Taxes or Hire and Accountant? from Financial Samurai
Helpful for: Convincing yourself that you can do your own taxes. Sam suggests that in most cases, you should be able to handle your return on your own unless your return is more complicated (i.e. multiple real estate properties, investments, businesses, etc.) He does his own in 2-3 hours each year using software, so no need to make it too complicated or time consuming.
Helpful for: Cheaply filing your personal tax return. I’ve always had a fairly simple return, and I’ve always filed it using Tax Slayer, which I’ve found to be cheaper than Turbo Tax yet do just as good as a job (I compared them side by side last year, and each calculated the identical refund). If you haven’t used online tax software, it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot since it’s free to try (it just costs money to file), and it’s definitely faster and more accurate than doing taxes by hand.
5. Best Tax Software for Filing Taxes from Money Smart Life
Helpful for: Evaluating the cost and features of several tax software providers. I haven’t used any of these before myself, but there’s several options from a few of the top brands of software presented.
Hiring Someone to Do Your Taxes
6. Ask Questions Before Letting Someone Do Your Taxes from DollarVersity
Helpful for: Choosing the right preparer for your tax return. Eric points out that not all options are equal, and you should ask questions like: what qualifications does s/he have? On what basis is s/he paid? Do your research and don’t pick someone at random.
7. Tax Prep Costs – How Much Will it Cost to Get Your Taxes Done from Get Rich Slowly
Helpful for: Determining how much it will cost to prepare your taxes with either software, online software, or an in-person service. This post goes into great depth, and includes various prices from across the US.
8. Essential Tips for Hiring a CPA from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
Helpful for: a script of specific questions to ask your potential CPA, which might go beyond solely tax preparations. YFS suggests finding a CPA that is at least somewhat specialized in dealing with individuals or businesses like yours.
Paying Taxes and Understanding Tax Rates and Brackets
9. Tax Rates, Tax Brackets, and Top Tips for Filing Tax Returns in 2012 from One Cent at a Time
Helpful for: A thorough breakdown of tax brackets. Don’t know how they work and what situation applies to you? Check out this post with many easy-to-read tables of information.
10. How to Make Quarterly Estimated Income Tax Payments from Good Financial Cents
Helpful for: Information on how to make quarterly tax payments, which is helpful (and sometimes required) if you’re self-employed.
11. Understanding Tax Brackets from Money Crush
Helpful for: Demystifying tax brackets. Many people think they pay tax at the same rate on all their income. This post explains how that’s simply not true, and shows how to properly calculate your taxes (just make sure you’re working with the regulations for the right year).
12. Commonly Overlooked Tax Deductions from Free From Broke
Helpful for: Not forgetting some significant yet harder-to-remember tax deductions. Did you rack up mileage for charitable work? What about your breastfeeding equipment? You may be able to get a tax break on these things, so don’t forget to look into them.
13. Tax Credits vs Tax Deductions from Money Talks Coaching
Helpful for: Understanding the difference between the two. A tax credit is almost always better than a tax deduction of the same amount. Read this post to understand why.
(Bonus) Tax Deductions for Charitable Contributions and Donations from Money Crashers
Helpful for: Learning about what can be deducted on your tax return and the rules related to how those deductions can be taken. This post includes some less-common donations other than cash, like stock or physical property
14. Tax Tips for the Freelancer from Get Rich Slowly
Helpful for: Getting answers to simple self-employed tax questions. GRS tackles the Schedule C as well as typical deductions (like the good old home office deduction).
15. Blogger Tax Breaks and Deductions from Free From Broke
Helpful for: Bloggers wondering what expenses to deduct. Here’s a list from Free From Broke with examples of deductions if you can take as a blogger (and I will definitely be taking some of these).
16. Tax Deductions for Your Online Business Expenses from the College Investor
Helpful for: Deductions for online businesses beyond just blogs. Robert provides another great list of the types of supplies, services, and other expenses that may be deductions on your return.
17. Home Business Deduction Tax Tips from the Novel Investor
Helpful for: Deductions focused on a home business. This isn’t limited to just online businesses, and includes a few more things in addition to the other posts above.
18. Why You Shouldn’t Buy a House Just for the Mortgage Deduction from Retire by 40
Helpful for: Considering the mortgage deduction and making a good decision. Since I’m a renter (4-lyf!), this post just talks a bit about the myth of the tax deduction for mortgages. YFS explains that the deduction itself, while it’s great, should never be the sole reason to purchase a house.
19. Is the Home Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction a Good Idea? from Five Cent Nickel
Helpful for: Another take on mortgage deductions. This is outside my realm, but I hope you enjoy it.
20. Sell Your Investment Losers Before 2011 Ends from Retire by 40
Helpful for: Tax strategy with investments. RB40 talks about selling “losers” at the end of 2011 for the tax benefit. It’s too late to take advantage this year, but mark you calendar before the end of 2012.
21. Looking for Another Tax Deduction? Open an IRA from Bible Money Matters
Helpful for: Encouraging you to open an IRA for the tax benefit. Perhaps the best you can take advantage of after the tax year is over, this post provides some the math to for late-season tax savings.
22. Traditional and Roth IRA Contribution Limits from PT Money
Helpful for: A thorough explanation of IRA contributions for 2012. Philip covers many (and maybe all) of the different contributions scenarios. If you’re unclear on what you can contribute, this post will straighten things out.
23. Basics of Investment Taxes from Six-Figure Investor
Helpful for: Learning how taxes on investments work, including capital gains.
24. Tax Efficient Investing from Investor Junkie
Helpful for: Investing to your best tax advantage.
Filing Late and Extensions
25. What Happens if You Don’t File Your Tax Return? from Good Financial Cents
Helpful for: Convincing yourself that it’s a really bad idea not to file your taxes. Jeff points out the penalties for not filing a return, which can be very harsh.
26. How to File a Federal Tax Extension from Moolanomy
Helpful for: Step-by-step for filing an extension. If you can’t get your return in on time, this post will guide you through the extension process.
Dealing with the IRS
27. What Should You Do if You Are Audited? from Free From Broke
Helpful for: Facing an IRS audit. I’ve never been audited, but I imagine it can be a stressful experience. This post is a quick guide for what to do, including knowing what your right are.
28. Negotiate with the IRS from Financially Consumed
Helpful for: Negotiating down what you owe to the IRS. If you owe money to the IRS, it’s possible that you can negotiate your way out of paying some of it back. Hunter provides a couple options for doing that.
29. Uncle Sam the CEO: Visualization of IRS Revenues from DQYDJ
Helpful for: Knowing how much tax is collected, and playing around with graphs. I’ve grown to love DQYDJ for all the cool graphs they make over there. This one is fun, too, as it takes your through a bit of the history of taxes.
Helpful for: Figuring out what changed in 2011 and for 2012 and planning accordingly.
32. Evading Tax – Legally from Frugal Confessions
Helpful for: Saving a few bucks on taxes. Amanda shares a story about how she “evades” taxes in her own life in a way that you might not have thought of before.
33. Tax Rates by Country from Squirrelers
Helpful for: Realizing we don’t pay that much in taxes in the US compared to the world. It’s true: the US has pretty low taxes (and we also have a low savings rate, too).
34. Explaining a Health Savings Account from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
Helpful for: Using a Health Savings Account (HSA), which does have tax benefits. HSAs utilize funds not subject to federal tax when they’re deposited into the account, and these funds can then be used to pay for a wide range of qualified medical expenses.
35. How to Cheat on Your Taxes – Legally from Get Rich Slowly
Helpful for: A savvy way to look for tax savings in areas where some deductions are prohibited. My favorite: “You can deduct personal legal fees related to contesting, paying, or claiming a refund on your taxes.”
36. Tax Forms You Need from Narrow Bridge
Helpful for: Knowing what tax forms to gather up and look for. Eric explains which tax forms will be reading your way before you file your return, so be sure to collect and save all of these!
37. 2012 Tax Deadline and Other Important Tax Dates from Novel Investor
Helpful for: Knowing tax dates for 2012. Taxes are due on April 17 (and not April 15) this year. Extended tax returns are due on October 15.
(Bonus) Romney, the Election and Double Taxation from Vaerdi Financial
(Bonus) What Tax Deductions Can I Take for Using My Car? from Your Smart Money Moves
Am I missing any other important topics or helpful posts? Let me know if there’s a good post out there that covers anything I omitted and I’ll include it!
p.s. – don’t forget that I’m running my one-year blogiversary giveaway with over $150 in prizes plus donations to charity. Enter now through 1/29/2012.
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photo by: soukup