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Doing Your Taxes

Q: How do I learn to do my taxes? Is it pretty self-explanatory, or do you have to really “learn” how to do them?

A: Taxes can vary from being very easy and taking very little time, to involving stacks of form and taking days. I’m sure that everyone has heard at least one person complaining about having to do his or her taxes. But, if you have a job and they take taxes out for you, then it can be a breeze.

Doing your taxes starts to become more complicated if you have been working as a freelancer or a contractor and you have received 1099’s. If this is the case, you can itemize your expenses (money you spent looking for work, money you spent doing your job and more). You claim these as deductions. The IRS provides “schedules” for these.

Before you start, make sure that you have everything you need. So gather all of your documents, such as your W-2 or 1099’s. You will also need your personal information, including your social security number. If you have been working as a contractor you should have been saving your receipts, now is the time to organize these as well.

Every tax form comes with an instruction sheet. You can read through these and follow them step-by-step. Another option is to use a tax program, such as Turbo Tax, which will walk you through every question on every form.

So, to answer your question, it depends on your individual situation. If you have been paying taxes through your employer then you should be able to do your taxes without much “learning” or preparation.

Cara Newman is the former Editor of Young Money magazine, YoungMoney.com, YoungMoneyTalks.com, and FindaCollegeScholarship.com. She has published six books and dozens of articles. Her writing has been featured in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Salon.com, the McClathy-Tribune, and more. Cara's background in journalism lets her easily communicate with any age group; she is a trusted source of information when it comes to financial matters concerning teenagers and young adults. In 1995, she graduated from Syracuse University with a B.S. in Mass Communications. Since 2000, she has worked as an editor and a writer, publishing dozens of stories and articles, as well as six other books. Her writing has been featured in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Salon.com, the McClathy-Tribune, and more. Cara has been featured on over two dozen radio programs, "Good Morning Atlanta" and San Francisco's KGO 6 o'clock news. As the Editor of Young Money, Cara often speaks at financial empowerment conferences for young adults. Cara worked hand-in-hand with PBS on their program, "Your Life, Your Money," creating content to accompany their program. YOUNG MONEY® was launched in 1999 to change the way young adults earn, manage, invest and spend money. As a leading national money, business and lifestyle magazine written primarily by student journalists, YOUNG MONEY specifically focuses on personal finance, money management, entrepreneurship, careers, and investing. YoungMoney.com is the leading young adult personal finance website and an original member of JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.
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