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Key Takeaways

• Preparing taxes by hand requires knowledge of tax forms, and it also leaves you prone to making mistakes.

• Using tax software eliminates arithmetic errors, and allows you to import necessary tax forms all for a reasonable cost.

• Hiring a tax professional provides a hands-off approach to preparing your taxes.

• You can file taxes by mail or online through e-file, with the latter allowing for quicker processing and more expedited refunds if applicable.

Our TurboTax Live experts look out for you. Expert help your way: get help as you go, or hand your taxes off. You can talk live to tax experts online for unlimited answers and advice OR, have a dedicated tax expert do your taxes for you, so you can be confident in your tax return. Enjoy . 


for your filing status, you don't need to file a tax return. The threshold for needing to file a tax return is lower if you earn self-employment income. In 2021, that’s $400 of net self-employment earnings. However, even if this is the case, you may still need to file a tax return if you meet certain conditions. You won't need to file a tax return if all of the following are true for your situation:

  • You’re under age 65
  • Earn less income as an employee than the 2021 Standard Deduction for your filing status
  • Don't have any special circumstances that require you to file (like earning $400 or more of net )
  • Don’t have unearned income of more than $1,100 for 2021 as a child or other dependent
on their tax return. You likely can get that money back since you earned less than the Standard Deduction for your applicable filing status. However, you can only get it by filing a tax return to claim a refund.

How can I prepare my tax return?

When it comes to preparing your tax return and filing it with the IRS, you’ve got three options:

to prepare your tax return by completing the required tax forms through on-screen Q&A prompts and guidance.
  • Going with a tax professional to handle your tax return preparation and filing (note: some online tax software offers assistance from qualified tax professionals as a value-added service).
  • . You may also opt to mail in your prepared tax return, though the IRS states this could take up to 6 weeks to process.

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    Despite these differences in timing, the best way to file your taxes depends on your personal preferences and what works most effectively for you.

    came through e-file.

    However, that doesn’t mean millions of people still don't prefer doing their own returns by hand. If you’d like to bust out the calculator and fill out paper tax forms by yourself, you’re welcome to do so. If you choose this route, you should either have an uncomplicated situation, meaning circumstances like only earning income from an employer and taking the Standard Deduction, or have a significant understanding and working knowledge of the forms you’ll need to prepare your return.

    and any supporting Schedules or other tax forms can be a great way to learn about the ins and outs of your taxes. This can include concepts like:

  • the and more.
  • Learning these important items once might help you now and down the road. Having a deeper level of engagement can lead to a better understanding, and strategy for preparing your taxes in future years.

    ) E-filing your tax return.

    The reason is that the IRS has stated that e-filed returns provide more accurate information, avoid processing delays, and speed up delivery of tax refunds (especially when selecting to receive refunds via direct deposit into a bank account).

    You can e-file your return if you prepare your own taxes on digital forms or through tax software after you’ve filed your return.

    If you’d like to mail your tax return to the IRS for processing, the IRS provides a where you should send your return.

    when you file. 

    on your return. Your not only determines your eligibility for certain tax deductions and credits, but it also indicates the you should use for calculating your tax bill.

    Step 2: Tally your income

    Once you’ve provided this information, you can begin tallying all of your income together. This can include income reported on:

  • 1099-R: Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc.
  • You may need to attach supporting tax forms to document this income for your return. Further, you may also need to consider adding to report any income you’ve earned from participating in .

    , , , and more.

    : filing electronically and using direct deposit for any tax refund you might receive.

    With , you can do your taxes, your way. Do it yourself, get expert help, or hand it off from start to finish – let’s get your taxes done right.