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Filing Your Taxes Will Be Easier With These Tips

Tax time is almost here, but don’t worry—there are plenty of resources to help you find your way through the tax forms. By following our prep list, you’ll be in good shape when you meet with your tax counselor or accountant.

First, get help

Free tax help is available across most of the islands in Hawaii. That’s right—free! Volunteer organizations have staff that are trained and approved by the IRS, and are available to help you wade through your tax filings. What do you need to know? Check with the organizations listed below to see if you qualify (free tax prep is focused on lower to moderate income workers), and if you need to make an appointment. You can save up to $150 just by getting this service for free. They’ll also make sure that you file for your Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—a windfall that many people don’t realize they qualify for, and don’t claim. Check before you go that the organization you select has opened for the season.

Second, get organized

Make your taxes easier by gradually getting started on your tax prep and getting yourself a little organized. It will take less time with your tax preparer, and might end up saving you money. If you are really organized, you can e-file your tax return now.

Free Tax Help

The IRS website offers an easy way to look up VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites throughout Hawaii.

You can also look up TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly—for those who are 60 and older) sites using the same VITA locater tool. In addition, the AARP website can help you locate a TCE Tax-Aide site.

The IRS offers free tax counseling for military families, also through the VITA program. For more information, check their website here. VITA tax counselors for the military are specially trained on military tax issues.

Hawai’i Tax Help website is a good resource, offering a listing of specific tax assistance sites across the state.

University of Hawai’i System, Leeward Community College will have volunteers available to help you with your taxes several days a week after the beginning of February.

Goodwill Industries of Hawaii offers tax clinics, but be sure to check their availability first.

United Way provides the same service. Look for your closest location and schedules here.

And of course, PayDayHawaii is here to help you with your tax preparation, at a lower cost than other tax preparers. We are currently offering tax preparation services on Kauai, Hilo, and Kona. However, if you are at another of our locations, we will find a way to accommodate you! Our paid tax preparers have years of experience, and are EITC specialists.

Tips to Get Organized

Even if you are able to take advantage of one of the above services for free tax help, you will still need to show up with your tax information organized and in order. Keep these following tips in mind:

  • If you did any freelance or consulting work in 2015, make sure you’ve filled out the W-9 form and returned it to that company. If you had any other income (alimony, other self-employment, etc.) start pulling together the documentation for that, too.
  • Gather together your paycheck stubs. You’ll want to check them against your W-2 when it arrives. Check the amounts and check your Social Security number. Also check that anything that was supposed to be deducted was deducted.
  • If you have bank accounts, check to see if you have all your bank statements. If not, start finding them now (hopefully you’ll be able to download online).
  • Check that you have your social security cards for each member of your family, including any new family additions. If not, start the process to get them now. If you need to replace a missing card, you can get started online here.
  • Make sure that you and your spouse have current photo IDs (driver’s license, etc.). Again, if you don’t, or can’t find it, get started now to replace it.
  • Consider if you had any work-related expenses last year. Hopefully you saved those receipts—start gathering them together, or print out receipts for purchases made online. Did you buy a uniform for a job; use your home computer for work; or buy tools for work? Did you have to travel for work, to a customer or to a meeting? If you drove your car for work (and weren’t reimbursed by your employer) start calculating the distances you traveled.
  • If you have a home office or workspace, you’ll need to figure out how much of your utilities your home office uses. Start gathering your utility bills from last year. If you can’t find all of them, you may be able to get your information from the utility’s website.
  • Now is also a good time to check through your receipts, credit card, or bank statements to see if there are any purchases you made for work, or for charitable donation, that you might have forgotten.
  • Did you make any charity donations last year? Or purchase something that you donated to a charity (canned food for a food bank, for example)? Or did you donate clothing or other items to a charity? Start figuring out just what all that adds up to, and getting all the receipts together.
  • The amount of medical and dental bills you can claim as a deduction must exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income, if you are under 65, 7.5% if you are over 65. It’s worth gathering together receipts for what you have spent and asking your tax preparer. Don’t forget prescriptions, chiropractic treatments, dental treatments, and insurance co-pays.
  • Do you pay child care, school tuition, have a student loan, or receive financial aid for education? Start putting together those documents.
  • You will also need copies of last year’s tax returns, and any real estate taxes you may have paid; plus complete birth dates for you, your spouse, and your dependents.

By starting to get organized now, you’ll be sure not to forget anything come tax time. You don’t want to miss any deductions you can claim!

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