There is only one season worse than winter, and that’s tax season. No doubt, you’ve heard the infamous saying, “There are only two sure things in life: death and taxes,” and, not to be morose, but those are the two things that will always find a way to get you.
One way to make this time of year look a little less gloomy is to be informed about how to file your taxes.
You are only required to file a federal income tax return if you made more than $5,700 while single and not claimed on your parents’ return, or if you made more than $950 and you’re a dependent. If you worked last year, but made less than those amounts, and had federal taxes withheld from your paycheck, you may be entitled to that money.
H&R Block will do simple federal tax returns for free online, or at one of their walk-in locations, using either the 1040EZ, 1040, or 1040A form. These so-called “simple” returns are for people who don’t have a lot of deductions to claim.
“A student could easily fill out a 1040 online if they have their W2 in front of them. The federal form is pretty straightforward,” said Rita Richmond, an agent at H&R Block at 151 Tremont who has advised people on their taxes for 33 years.
Your employer should have given you your W2 at the beginning of this year. This form simply states the income of the past year and the amount withheld in federal taxes, social security, and Medicare.
Use these numbers to complete the “Income” section of the 1040EZ form. If you have any investments, like a savings account which yields interest, or if you own any stocks or bonds, you have to report the income from that too. Your bank, or your stock broker, will provide you with this information as well. If your income is less than the amount required to file, you may be eligible to get those withheld federal taxes back.
If you made enough money and to file your taxes but forget to do so, you could get in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
“They might send you a nasty letter,” said Richmond. “There is not a statute of limitations, so they are able to come after you for however many years after. If there is a mistake on your return, though, they have to notify you within three years.”
So don’t forget, your return must be postmarked by April 18.