4 things to think about before filing your taxes

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Tax season is upon us, so here are four things to think about before you file — to help you avoid the costly mistakes tax experts say too many of us make when filing our taxes.

United Way is committed to making sure you can file your taxes easily and accurately and get the refunds and credits you deserve. Using MyFreeTaxes®, you can file federal and state returns for free. Since 2009, United Way has helped some 1.3 million people nationwide save $260 million in application fees and return more than $2 billion in reimbursements to local communities throughMyFreeTaxes.com. And this year, MyFreeTaxes is available in English and Spanish.

In addition to using MyFreeTaxes when filing returns, tax experts offer the following tips to minimize errors and maximize your refund this tax season:

1. Choose carefully —One of the most common mistakes taxpayers make is selecting the wrong filing status. This can affect the credits and deductions you are entitled to, the value of your standard deduction, and even your tax bracket. When life gets complicated, taxes get complicated too.

For example, if a taxpayer with children divorces, he may not know whether to file as a “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” or if he is eligible to file as a as the head of the family. MyFreeTaxes can help answer these questions. The tax software behind MyFreeTaxes includes a helpful Filing Status Wizard that you can use to confirm that you are choosing the correct filing status when preparing your return. You can also use the MyFreeTaxes Helpline to speak to an IRS-trained live specialist. The MyFreeTaxes Helpline is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST daily to clarify things like filing status, and is available atMyFreeTaxes.com/Support .

2. Check yourself —Always check the basics of your tax returns and make sure that your name and the names of your spouse and/or dependents and Social Security Numbers (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) are correct. Be sure to double-check the information you pulled from your W-2s, if you have any — transposing numbers or entering numbers in the wrong fields are common mistakes that could cause your return to be rejected.

3. Find what you have to come —Nearly 5 million Americans leave an average of $3,000 each on the table each year by failing to claim common credits and deductions. MyFreeTaxes automatically checks credit and deduction eligibility for things like Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit and also allows you to claim any missed stimulus payments.

Nearly 20% of eligible individuals do not claim their EITC each year. Depending on income and number of children, that could mean leaving $500 to $6,000 on the table.

Many people received monthly Advance Child Tax Credit payments in 2021. These payments were only half of the CTC amount owed to individuals on their 2021 return. Families are due to file their 2021 return in 2022 to get the second half of their CTC amount. If you missed your prepayments, you can claim the full CTC amount when you file your return. Check it out onMyFreeTaxes.com!

4. School yourself —College credits are another often overlooked benefit. Depending on the type of college program, the student’s year, income, and other restrictions, a student can use the American Opportunity Credit for up to $2,500 or the Lifetime Learning Credit for up to $2,000. And be aware that the MyFreeTaxes software automatically filters it by guiding you through your declarations.

Bottom line: don’t leave money on the table and don’t pay for tax preparation if you don’t have to!

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