Try searching the internet for advice about doing your taxes with your significant other or spouse. You’ll get literally millions of results about topics like whether to file jointly, if you can claim a significant other as a dependent, or the tax benefits of getting married.
What you won’t find are tips to minimize the stress of sitting down and doing your taxes together with your S.O. Things like choosing where and when to do your taxes, or getting the right documents together. When it comes to minimizing your stress at tax time, these considerations are just as important as accurately filling out form 1040.
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Since it’s so hard to find advice on this topic, we decided to write it ourselves and share it with all our followers.
Without further ado, here are five things to do with your S.O. before you do your taxes, to make the process less stressful.
1) DIY or CPA? Decide who’s preparing your taxes.
Should you prepare your taxes yourself or hire a professional? There is no one right answer. It’s all a matter of what you’re comfortable with.
If the two of you don’t have kids or own a home and you each have one full time job and no other income, you can probably knock out your taxes on your own. But if you don’t feel confident doing your taxes, there’s no shame in hiring a tax professional.
Just make sure you’re both in agreement about your approach before you get started.
2) Gather relevant documents: divide and conquer
You’ll need to have some documents handy before you can start doing your taxes. Both of you will want to set aside tax documents like W-2’s, 1098’s and 1099’s as you receive them via mail, or email. You should receive most of your tax documents by early February.
You may have to obtain some documents on your own from financial services providers, health care providers or educational institutions. Most of these organizations should have the relevant forms available for you to download once you’re logged into your account.
The free tax filing checklists below can help you gather all the documents you’ll need to do your taxes. The H&R Block checklist is better for those with complex taxes (rental properties, business or investment income, etc.) and the TurboTax checklist is better for simpler taxes.
So, download a checklist and start divvying up the documents together.
3) Be smart about scheduling
Are you ever in the mood to do your taxes? If you are, rock on! But most of us would probably rather do just about anything else. That’s why it’s helpful to commit to doing your taxes in advance at a specific time.
The calendar is more than just a scheduling tool. It can function as your accountability partner too. Just make sure you choose a day and time that works for both of you.
4) Make a space to do your taxes
There’s a French culinary term, mise en place, which translates to “everything in its place”. It refers to a professional chef setting up the kitchen before their shift. When done right, everything the chef needs will be nearby and ready to use.
It’s a concept that can apply to many other areas, including doing your taxes. Once you choose where you’ll work on your taxes, everything you’ll need should be nearby: your documents, computer, receipts, etc.
As for where to do your taxes, there are plenty of options. Just make sure it’s a mutual decision. Offices and dens are great, but if you don’t have one, a kitchen table works well too.
If your place is small or you just don’t want to do your taxes at home, there’s no shame in posting up at the library – it’s quiet and they have free Wi-Fi. Many libraries even have volunteers providing free tax preparation help around tax time.
5) Have a plan for your refund or plan not to have one
You want to get the biggest possible benefit out of any tax refund you get. To do that, you both should think about what you most want to do with that money and come to an agreement before you ever get it.
Then again, you might not want a tax refund at all. While a big refund might seem like a windfall, you’re just getting back money that you loaned to Uncle Sam interest free.
If you don’t need the refund, consider changing your withholding so that more of the money in your refund stays in your paychecks throughout the year. To learn more about how to do this, speak with a licensed tax professional.
Other helpful resources:
- What to Do With Your Tax Refund
- Choose 2 Change: An email series that helps you adopt healthy money habits and become a stronger money team.
- Tap to Save: It’s never been easier to save money than with our FREE app for iOS and Android.