Tax reform filing redux. It's got to be better in 2020, right?
Most of us came through it OK. Yeah, I know some folks didn't adjust their withholding, at all or enough and ended up facing a tax bill instead of getting their usual expected refund.
OK, it might not have been as much tax savings as we wanted, especially compared to some of our richer neighbors. And it definitely wasn't as easy as, or on a postcard-sized form, as many Republican lawmakers had promised.
But it was something.
So we're ready to do the filing thing all over again, this time with less hassle thanks to hindsight and the lessons we learned the last filings season, right?
If you're still a little trepidatious, don't worry. That's what the 2020 version of Tax Season Filings Tips is for. Before you put pencil to tax form — or, more likely, keyboard to software — this collection of pieces of tax advice can help.
Still not necessarily daily: In addition to getting another crack at TCJA provisions, this 2020 filing season also will be familiar in the timing of the Filing Season Tax Tips.
Last year's readers know that in 2019, this blog feature downsized from being a week day occurrence. Personal commitments and challenges forced me to pace myself a bit. It worked, so I'm sticking with not-strictly daily tax tips again in 2020.
But fear not dear readers! I promise you'll still get lots of valuable filing information here on the ol' blog, as featured tax tips and in plain old posts, which will continue to go up every day, even on weekends. Cases in point, see the Saturday and Sunday By the Numbers and Shout Out features.
And those items that are officially designated as Filing Season Tax Tips will be, as in prior years, highlighted at the top of the ol' blog's right column. They'll be there through the April filing deadline, just under the old-school yellow No. 2 pencil tip image.
Also like in previous filing seasons, once a tax tip is posted, it will be will be archived on a monthly tax tip page. Since you're reading this, you know the January 2019 is live. The February, March and April tip collections will go up when those months arrive. You'll find those links at the bottom of this page.
Focus on filing: Another constant in 2020 is that the tax tips through the April deadline primarily will focus of ways to fill out your Form 1040 and yes, this season we still are using that one, although revised yet again, tax return form.
That's 1040 mention also is a great time to note that I'm adding a new occasional feature to the ol' blog in 2020, Tax Form Tuesday. More on this is coming soon, but it's what it sounds like. And some of these forms features will be Filing Season Tax Tips.
While this year's tips will focus mainly on filling out your 2019 tax return, I won't overlook the fact that each filing season also overlaps with necessary tax planning for our 2020 taxes.
This means that some of the tax tips will, as they have for years, also offer information on what we need to do now to reduce our upcoming current year tax bills, which started running on Jan. 1.
OK, enough of the tax tip teasing and housekeeping. I present, tah-dah!, the list of January 2020 Filing Season Tax Tips.
- Standard mileage rates drop in 2020 — The good news is that some tax-related driving still is deductible this New Tax Year. The bad news is that in 2020, the standard optional mileage rates for business, medical and certain moving related miles are lower than in 2019. The rates and other details are in part 10 (finally!) of the ol' blog's 2020 tax inflation adjustments series. (Jan. 1, 2020)
- IRS announces 2020 tax filing season starting dates — Tax season 2020 has arrived, for business filers at least. The Internal Revenue Service started accepting tax year 2019 business returns on Jan. 7. The tax party really ramps up on Jan. 27, when the agency will begin accepting and processing individual tax returns. (Jan. 7, 2020)
- Babies' birthdays determine tax year tax breaks — A baby's birthday affects when you can claim any of the many child-related tax breaks. And when it's twins, child birth, rearing and tax benefits can get a bit more complicated, especially if delivery spans both New Year's Eve and Day. (Jan. 8, 2020)
- Tax return filing checklist — Filling out your 1040 actually is the easiest part of tax return filing. Before you get to that step, you need to prepare, by making sure you have all the tax statements and other documents you need. And if you itemize, that means even more pre-filing data collection. Here's a checklist (yes, a loooong checklist) of what you need to consider and collect before filing. (Jan. 9, 2020)
- 6 reasons to file your taxes early — Taxpayers expecting refunds typically are among the firs to file their 1040s each year. But there are other reasons to file your taxes early. (Jan. 10, 2020)
- Jan. 15 is 4th quarter estimated tax deadline — Estimated tax payers face the final tax year 2019 deadline next week. The 4th installment is due on Jan. 15. If you miss it or have paid too little for the prior tax year, you could face tax penalties. (Jan. 12, 2020)
- Form 1040 revised again — The new tax reform law meant that taxpayers last filing season saw the first substantive changes to Form 1040 in decades. But the revisions haven't stopped. With tax-filing season 2020 upon us, the IRS has again tweaked the lone individual tax return and eliminated 3 of its original schedules. (Jan. 14, 2020)
- Finding and checking out your tax preparer — If you're looking for a tax preparer, you need to make sure you find one that fits your filing needs. Then you need to thoroughly check out that person to make sure he or she is a reputable and qualified tax professional. (Jan. 16, 2020)
- Who must file a tax return — Most of us who make any money generally must file a tax return. Here are the details on the three filing requirements — age, income and filing status — that will determine whether you're one of the millions from whom the Internal Revenue Service demands a Form 1040. (Jan. 17, 2020)
- Who should file a tax return — If you're lucky enough not to have to file a tax return, congrats! But sometimes you should file even if you're not legally required to do so. Here are 10 such reasons to send the Internal Revenue Service a Form 1040. (Jan. 20, 2020)
- Decoding your W-2 — You must have your W-2 to file your tax return. But that relatively small tax statement has a whole lot of information on it beyond how much you earned and the amount of taxes you paid via withholding. This overview looks at what to look for on your W-2 and how to use the information. (Jan. 22, 2020)
- Do your taxes for free at Free File — Free. It's the best four-letter word out there, especially when it comes to your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service/tax software industry's no-cost tax prep and e-filing option Free File is open, ahead of the tax agency's official Jan. 27 start of the 2020 tax season. Here are your options, eligibility info and tips on making the most of it. (Jan. 23, 2020)
- 6 reasons to wait to file — The 2020 tax filing season officially starts next week, but here are six reasons why you might not want to be among the first filers to send in your 1040 to the Internal Revenue Service. (Jan. 24, 2020)
- States also offer free online tax filing — The federal Free File option is available as tax season 2020 starts on Jan. 27. But many of the 43 states that collect tax from their residents also have their own no-cost online state tax preparation and e-filing programs. (Jan. 26, 2020)
- Tax statements needed to file returns — The opening of every filing season there is a rush by millions of taxpayers to submit their returns. Many taxpayers, however, can't yet file 1040 forms. They're still waiting for one or more of these tax statements. (Jan. 27, 2020)
- Deductions that don't require itemizing — Most taxpayers don't itemize, especially with the new tax law's larger standard deductions, but they still can claim some write-offs directly on Form 1040 Schedule 1. These possibilities, formerly known (apologies to Prince) as above-the-line deductions, include the recently resurrected tuition and fees claim. (Jan. 29, 2020)
- Claim the EITC if you qualify — The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) offers savings, and possible tax refunds, to low- and moderate-income workers. But every year, millions who are eligible to claim the EITC don't. Check out this tax credit's benefits (including a possible refund!) and if you qualify, claim it. (Jan. 31, 2020)
As I mentioned earlier on this 2020 inaugural Filing Season Tax Tips page, as soon as January wraps (and all this month's tips fill up this page), you can check out February's (and March's and April's) Filing Season Tax Tips.
If you're curious, those tax tip pages already are live, but for now with a fun GIF instead of tips. Tax info will replace that animated fellow when those months arrive.
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