As most of you know I am quite new to taxes in the U.S, having moved here from England only three years ago (wow, it’s gone quickly!). Taxes compared to the U.K. are very different and by this I mean the types of taxes, where you pay them to, how deductions are made and the tax year dates. TurboTax invited me to partner with them and try out their new TurboTax Live where you can one-way video chat with a real life CPA or Enrollled agent for advice – you can see them, but they can’t see you. You also get a final review before you submit your taxes electronically. After trying out the service, and given there isn’t long to go until the tax deadline (it’s April 17th this year!), I thought I would share five things that I learned from doing my taxes:
1. Don’t hack your taxes!
If I don’t know something I tend to type in the question to a search engine. However, if you don’t understand something when it comes to taxes this isn’t always the best approach – in fact, it can confuse you more! When you are tight on time or hit a wall of confusion, why not simply ask a real-life expert instead? I loved using TurboTax Live this year because as a relative newcomer to the U.S, I was confused by the new-to-me tax processes. I just needed to speak to a real person, who I knew I could trust. This is exactly what TurboTax Live offers: it lets you speak to a real person who is a CPA or EA to ask any questions you may have. They can even go through your return with you before you submit to make sure everything is a-ok – for my Heartmate and I that peace of mind was so reassuring when it is only our third year of doing taxes in the U.S. What surprised me was how nice the person was that helped me. We bought a house this year and we had literally no clue what deductions we needed to make or what forms we needed to complete. She took the time to explain the parts of the tax return related to our situation and also how the change of address would affect the local taxes we have to pay. You could tell she wasn’t following a script but rather was a real person giving honest advice and guidance. The best thing is you don’t have to leave your house, it is all done through TurboTax in a video chat – the best!
2. Use automatic import services to save you time
One thing I didn’t do until this year was use automatic import services., if you are employed and get a W2, TurboTax allows you to electronically import data from many employers and financial institutions. I love when technology actually works and saving you time from data entry. This helps so much because it is so easy to misplace a form, especially if, like me, you move a lot or you aren’t that sure what is important and what is not. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you can’t find that one sheet of paper you need, right? Using an online service can save so much time as it allows you to search for this data electronically.
3. Don’t forget deductions
After moving from the U.K. to the U.S I discovered that there are differences in which deductions you can take. Here are a few that I learned:
– Charitable donations, even clothing and goods can count, just make sure to get a receipt from the charity for your donation; TurboTax ItsDeductible also allows you to accurately track and value your donations year round and transfer them to your tax return.
– Dedicated space in your home which you use for work may be a valid deduction;
– IRA contributions (so make sure to think about retirement) – I learned that you can contribute to your IRA up until the tax deadline (April 17th this year) and deduct the contribution on your 2017 taxes.
– Get a mileage app for your phone and record all those business miles you do. There are lots of apps out there which will track your mileage automatically for you using GPS, including QuickBooks Self-Employed.
I also found this super helpful post from the experts at TurboTax on some of the little known deductions that you may qualify for on your 2017 taxes.4. The sooner you do it, the sooner you get your refund!
Life is busy, right? I used to find that I kept putting off doing my taxes – guilty as charged! I would mean to do them but then a work project came up or a friend would invite me to do something and before I know it, it was March and I still hadn’t done them! The one thing I have found that motivates my husband and I is that the sooner we do our taxes the sooner we get our tax refund. That means we can then book a holiday or buy something new for the house. Having something to look forward to really motivates us to get that tax return done. Plus, it’s like that old saying that a dog’s bark is worse that its bite: often the thought of taxes is worse than actually doing them. Especially this year, as having a live CPA or EA available from the comfort of our own home meant that we could ask questions if we got stuck. That meant we didn’t give up, instead we had someone to ask that could get us back on track and so we completed our taxes so much quicker. And we maybe getting a refund sooner!
5. Make simple changes for next year.
I won’t lie to you, I found the first year of doing taxes in the US hard because I wasn’t helping myself accomplish the task. I now know that there are so many simple things you can do to make it easier. Here are a couple we do. I have a drawer in my office just for paperwork and in there I have three folders. The first one is for tax deductions receipts – every time we come home we put any receipts we can deduct from our taxes into the paper folder. We change this folder once a month, so the receipts stay somewhat neat! The second folder is for our bank statements and credit card statements. Lastly, we have a folder for any tax documents. I learned this the hard way as the first year when we couldn’t find our health insurance tax form, it took such a long time to get a replacement, so having a folder for all these tax forms was really useful this year!
I hope these tips were useful – do you have any tips that you can share with me?// Posted in partnership with TurboTax. All views my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that enable me to run Bright.Bazaar.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of TurboTax. The opinions and text are all mine.