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How to file your taxes

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Form 1040, not filled in
Photo: Dylan Jahnke (42Fifty)

I don’t know a single person who wants to pay taxes, yet everyone does! Many people think it’s a terrible thing, but what they don’t know is that your tax money goes to some very profitable and important projects and services across the U.S. Taxes help pay for everything from building roads in your own neighborhoods, to highways, all the way to building a new skyscraper. Once you’ve paid these taxes, your money isn’t necessarily gone. From now until mid-April, you can file a tax return to get a portion of what you’ve paid the government back into your pocket.

Now that you know what taxes are all about, it’s time to claim the money you’ve been losing! Nearly everyone in the labor force gets taxes deducted from their paycheck, which makes a drastic change in your bank account each time you go and deposit your checks. This money simply goes to the government, but I’m here to show you how to get a good portion of that money back.

First, you will need a 1040 tax return form (or a different form of tax return document), a W-2 form, and some basic information about yourself. These things are easily accessible in most workplaces—just ask your employer. Information you should definitely gather is your social security number, your annual gross pay amount, home address, your job’s address and the name of your employer.

Many people do not like to do their own taxes, so they pay another person to do them. No need for that this year—I’m going to tell you how to do it for free and how to do it easily!

Grab a quiet place where you can focus for a while and get that pen and tax return document. As usual, your name goes first at the top of the paper! Most people reading this are not married, so this won’t apply to them, but if you are, you can also file your spouse’s taxes. All you have to do is check the box that applies to your spouse.

Next, you’ll need to fill out your home address and the town you live in—simple! A large portion of students are dependents, meaning their parents claim them. This doesn’t mean anything special, it just means you’re not paying for your bills or putting your own roof over your head. Simply check the “dependent” box and you’re good to go.

Hopefully you’ve been keeping track of your paychecks or can check in with your bank, because you’ll also need to know your gross and net pay. This information is not very hard to find, as long as you have access to one of your pay stubs or your current bank statement.

Now, with all your numbers filled in where they need to be, grab a calculator and read the directions on the form very carefully. You’ll have to add some lines together, subtract certain amounts from one another and complete some other very basic mathematical operations.

Finally, once you have all of these lines filled in, seal that form in the envelope, and mail your tax return to the Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service in Fresno, California. This department will then confirm if all your information is matching with what they have down on their records. Any time between mid-January and April is when you can expect to get that return back, so get ready to get that longly anticipated fat check!

If this method seems like too much work for you, websites like TaxAct and TurboTax work just as well and usually take half the time it takes someone to do their taxes themselves. Happy tax season, Panthers!

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