File My Taxes

Dear Dr. Per Cap: 

We have a tribal program that offers free tax filing and a local guy who does taxes, too. But maybe I can just do them myself. Is it hard to do your own taxes?

Signed, 

Self-Starter


Dear Self-Starter,

I’m a fan of folks who file their own taxes. Not only because they can save time and possibly money, but also, because they gain a much clearer understanding of their own finances.

While Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and other programs do a great job of providing free filing services to income-eligible participants, there’s absolutely no reason why many people can’t complete and file their tax returns themselves.

The first step is to determine the complexity of your return. Go back and look at copies of your federal and state returns from the last few years to see what’s there. Note how many income statements you reported, such as W2’s for wages and 1099’s for gig work or other self-employment. 

Next, review any attached forms or schedules to determine what types of credits, deductions, additions to income, and other unique situations have applied to you in the past.

For most people, taxes start to get complicated when they file a joint return with a spouse, have numerous dependents, or a variety of income sources. The most basic return is usually for a single person with no dependents, one source of income (usually from a job), and only a few deductions or credits.

Regardless of the complexity of your return, the technology powering tax-filing software these days is awesome. It walks you through the return step by step, alerts you to any potential issues, and recommends credits and deductions you might qualify for. 

And it crunches all the numbers, so there’s no room for human error, like accidentally adding an extra zero to the amount of tax you owe!

Check out the Internal Revenue Service website for IRS-approved companies that provide free online filing for people with an AGI (adjusted gross income) of $73,000 or less. 

For the 2022 tax filing season, there are 11 different companies listed, so spend a few minutes picking the one that best suits your needs. Some only serve taxpayers in certain states, others have different income requirements, and some might not support your specific credits and deductions.

For folks with an AGI that exceeds $73,000, there are several options. First, you can download fillable tax forms from the IRS website, complete a paper return, and mail it in.  Not a great option unless you love taking the time and effort to do everything by hand. 

Or you can use one of the same IRS free filing vendors who will charge a fee to file. 

A third option is to shop online or run to a store that sells tax-filing software and buy it. The last two options will cost money but should still be a lot cheaper than paying someone else to do your taxes.

Happy filing and remember that tax day this year is Tuesday, April 18th, 2023.

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email askdrpercap@firstnations.org.