Ready or not, here it comes… April 15. The dreaded Tax Day. (Except this year, Tax Day falls on April 18 thanks to April 15 falling on a weekend).
While there’s a chance your reward will be great upon filing and Uncle Sam might actually send you a return in exchange for your taxpaying efforts, the paperwork seems intimidating.
According to Nerdwallet, 80% of millennials worry about making a mistake on their tax forms. Seven in ten of us have some sort of concern regarding tax prep. And we’re more afraid of taxes than any other age group before us.
As we are all about defying millennial stereotypes here at #NAMB, we want to help you overcome our collective fear of April 15. So… the latest in our Monthly Chat series comes from one of our own as she shares her expertise in the area!
You may remember that Claire holds a Master of Business Administration degree in accounting and has worked in the field prior to beginning her career as an animal care specialist. She’s shared some of her accounting prowess with us before — but now, we chatted with her about how millennials can best handle their taxes.
Why do you think millennials are so intimidated by doing their taxes?
I think millennials are intimidated by doing their taxes because there’s a lot of information! There is a reason why tax accountants have jobs. There is a lot of tax law out there. But if you take it step by step, it gets easier. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Is it really as hard as everyone thinks it is?
Honestly, this depends. If you are new to the work force and have just the basic W-2, no need to fear — that is quite simple to figure out. However, if you have your own business, have write-offs that may add up to more than your standard deduction (meaning you can itemize), and dependents, that is where it can get tricky. These special circumstances are where you need to save receipts from business expenditures, prescription bottles, medical and dental expenses, and student loan interest.
What can millennials do to make the process of filing taxes easier?
One of the biggest tips I can give is to use the VITA Program, which stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. This is a program for those who have an annual income of $54,000 or less. Volunteers come together to do taxes for free! I worked for this program as an internship while I was earning my Masters degree. And it’s a program of the IRS, so it’s legit, I promise. The program volunteers can also tell you about things you may not know about, such as the earned income credit, which, if you qualify, can leave you with a couple hundred dollars!
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to millennials when doing their taxes?
My biggest piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help. There is a lot to know, so your first time, you will need guidance, and that is okay! I still don’t know everything, and I worked in the area of tax accounting!
Do you recommend millennials filing taxes on their own or using an accountant?
If it’s your first time, you may want help from a C.P.A. or a tax franchise organization, like H&R Block. Once you file for your first time, it won’t be as scary. It will also give you ideas on what you can use as tax credits or deductions.
Most of us millennials don’t have super complicated taxes quite yet. I personally only have a W-2 right now, where I just copy the information from the W-2 form that was mailed to me onto the tax form. I also qualify for the earned income credit and I get money back on my state return. However, once you have mortgage interest as a result of owning a home, medical expenses, student loan interest, business expenses, etc., you may want to use an accountant to make sure you get the highest return possible.
If millennials do want to file on their own, what do you recommend?
If you visit the IRS Website, there are questionnaires available where they can help you determine your filing status, what your standard deduction amount is and if your expenses would qualify as itemized deductions. I highly recommend using these questionnaires.
If millennials do want to use an accountant, are there any that specialize in helping millennials?
I do not believe that there are accountants specific to millennials, but all accountants have worked with many individuals new to the tax world and most are very accommodating and understanding if you are scared and confused.
Are there any podcasts, Twitter accounts, or blogs that millennials can read to help them with their taxes?
There are helpful audio files available on the IRS Website. As far as twitter accounts, I recommend @IRSnews or @IRStaxpros for information.
You want to use an accountant, but you don’t have the funds to pay one, and you don’t want to file on your own. What alternatives do you recommend?
The VITA program! You can also use the free file program from IRS.gov, for which the annual income limit is $64,000.
Bottom line: When you have helped people file their taxes, what issues have you noticed them having difficulty with?
The most difficulty I see people having when filing is that they do not know where to start. I would start first by first getting organized. You should get in the mail either a W-2 or a 1099-misc. Save these! You will need them. Starting a file is a great idea for tax season. Also, save any other statements that may have tax breaks/deductions, such as student loan interest, contributions to an IRA, or additional income such as investment or interest income.
If you have all of these things, you may be able to itemize and take more than the standard deduction. Then, decide how to file. Avoid preparers if their fee is based on how large of a refund they get for you — this is a red flag for con artists. Look up potential credits and deductions, such as the child and dependent care credit, earned income credit, business expenses, job search expenses, charitable contributions, medical expenses, and state and local sales tax. See if you qualify for them. You got this!
Read more about Claire’s work and credentials at her author bio.