How to Do Taxes for the First Time

Pay Your Taxes

Doing taxes for the first time can be stressful. But don’t fret. It’s not that bad. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the basic things you need to know about filing your personal income taxes. We’ll cover:

  • When are Taxes Due?
  • What You Need to Prepare Taxes
  • Ways to Prepare Taxes
  • How to Choose Tax Software
  • How Long it Takes to Get Your Tax Refund

When are Taxes are Due?

2011 taxes are due by April 17, 2012. If you are having trouble getting organized on time, there is always the option of filing a 2011 personal income tax extension with the IRS. If you decide to file an income tax extension, your taxes are still due on April 17. An income tax extension just gives you some extra time to prepare your tax paperwork.

What You Need to Do Taxes

To prepare your taxes, you will need to gather the following items:

Income-Related Information
Tax Deductions and Tax Credits
Previous Taxes Paid
Bank Account Information

Ways to Prepare Taxes

There are several ways to prepare your taxes for the first time. You can do your taxes by hand, prepare your taxes online, hire an accountant, or work with a tax preparation service. Here is a run down of the pros and cons of each method:

Do Your Taxes on Your Own by Hand
File your Taxes Online
Use a Tax Preparation Service
Hire an Accountant

How to Choose Tax Software

There are tons of tax software programs to choose from, and the choice can seem a little overwhelming at times. Here are some of the things you should consider:

  • Price – Consider the price of filing your federal return and your state tax returns each year.
  • Usability – How easy (or hard) the software is to use.
  • Customer support – Are there tax experts on staff and technical support teams standing by to help you work through your tax questions.

Over the years, I’ve used several different types of tax software. My personal favorite is TurboTax, but here is a comparison of the three most popular tax software packages: H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxAct

  • Price (Basic Federal)
  • Price (Basic State)
  • Price (Deluxe Federal)
  • Price (Deluxe State)
  • Support
  • Usability
  • H&R Block

  • $19.95
  • $34.95
  • $29.95
  • $34.95
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • TurboTax

  • Free
  • $27.95
  • $29.95
  • $36.95
  • Excellent
  • Excellent

How Long it Takes to Get your Tax Refund

How long it takes to get your tax refund depends on which method you choose to file your tax return. If you opt to file a paper return, it typically takes around six weeks from the date the IRS receives your return. If you e-file, or prepare your taxes online, refund are usually deposited in your account within three weeks. If you have already filed, and it seems like it has taken a long time, you can go to the IRS’s “Where’s My Refund” website or call the tax refund hotline at 800-829-1954. Give it at least 3 days after filing electronically or 3 weeks after mailing your return to check on its status.

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