Your Free Guide to Federal Tax Returns 

Your Free Guide to Federal Tax Returns 

You will learn about:
  • tax dates and deadlines
  • how to determine your filling status
  • which tax form do you need to file, and more

101 min – Estimated reading time

Your Free Guide to Federal Tax Returns 

Your Free Guide to National Tax Returns

Introduction to Tax Returns

For many people, filing a tax return can feel like an intimidating financial responsibility. However, armed with the right information, taxpayers can more easily navigate some of the biggest hurdles in the process and receive the biggest refund possible.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the government agency responsible for overseeing the tax collection process. Most workers who earn an income are required to file an annual tax return, which is the process of determining how much money they must pay in taxes. The amount is often referred to as a tax liability or tax burden. 

In some cases, it may be helpful to file a federal tax return even if it is not required by law. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can help some individuals qualify for a refund even if they didn’t earn a lot of money in the previous year. The Child Tax Credit also serves to lessen the tax burden for families with children.

Various factors can influence a person’s tax burden, such as:

  • Filing status
  • Employment status
  • Income
  • Family composition

A taxpayer’s filing status can change annually due to several life events, like getting married, getting divorced, adding a dependent child, or getting a higher-paying job. This can also influence the taxpayer’s access to tax credits and deductions. 

Gathering the right tax forms, receipts, and other supporting documents ahead of time helps simplify  the filing process. It is also important to learn about any tax changes from the previous year, which could raise or lower tax liability.

While some people choose to file income taxes using the free tools provided by the IRS, taxpayers with complicated financial situations may find it helpful to hire a tax preparer to guide them through the process. Tax experts may offer customized advice on how to adjust withholdings and maximize deductions to potentially lighten future tax burdens. 

The IRS also offers Taxpayer Assistance Centers to those whose personal tax issues cannot be resolved over the phone or online. Whether owing taxes or learning that a refund check is on its way, many people are relieved to have the filing task behind them. With some helpful information and insight into the filing process, you can feel better prepared to handle your taxes.

Tax Dates and Deadlines

Most people who earn an income above a certain level must file income taxes annually by Tax Day, which occurs on or around April 15. The specific date may change if it interferes with a weekend or public holiday.

  • If April 15 falls on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, Tax Day is April 15.
  • If April 15 falls on a Friday or Saturday, Tax Day is April 18.
  • If April 15 falls on a Sunday, Tax Day is April 17.

The IRS usually begins accepting returns in late January. For 2022, you can file a return as early as Monday, January 24; the deadline to file a 2021 tax return is Monday, April 18.

Tax Return Extensions

Taxpayers who need more time to file their taxes may request a tax return extension using Form 4868. In 2022, extended returns may be submitted as late as October 17. 

However, this extension does not apply to tax payments. Tax returns filed after Tax Day without an extension are subject to late fees and penalties.

You can download this form on the IRS website here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4868.pdf 

Deadline for Filing Previous Years’ Tax Returns

Some taxpayers may make amendments to previous tax returns. Generally, you can only make amendments to returns within three years of the date you originally filed. Amended and late returns are ineligible for electronic filing after-tax deadlines and will need to be filed via a paper return. 

Tax Deadlines by State

Most states that impose state income tax require taxpayers to file their returns by the federal tax deadline. However, some have separate deadlines for state income taxes. 

State2022 Deadline to File 
DelawareMay 2, 2022
IowaMay 2, 2022
LouisianaMay 16, 2022
MaineApril 19, 2022
MassachusettsApril 19, 2022
VirginiaMay 1, 2022

The following states do not currently have a state income tax, and therefore do not have a state tax deadline:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington 
  • Wyoming

Fiscal Year Tax Deadlines

Fiscal-year taxpayers run on a different timeline due to the beginning of fiscal years not always matching with calendar years. Fiscal years are split into four quarters. Each quarter is made up of three months in the year. For example, January, February, and March could make up the first quarter of a fiscal year. 

Partnerships are required to file taxes by the 15th day, three months after the end of their tax year. Corporations are similar to partnerships but can wait up to four months after the end of their tax year. 

All other tax deadlines can be found on Publication 509 provided by the IRS. Access Publication 509 for 2022  in the following URL: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p509

Preparing to File Your Taxes

Preparation for tax season begins with determining if you may be required to file an income tax return. If you do need to file your taxes, the next step is to check that you have all the supporting documents necessary to make it happen. 

Individuals with incomes above a certain level are usually required to file a tax return each year. However, the minimum income requirement varies between taxpayers because it is based on the type of income, the filing status, and the age of each individual who files. 

Do I Have to File a Tax Return?

Whether you are considering filing your taxes for the first time or have just started up a business and are unsure about your annual profit, it can be confusing to try and figure out whether or not you need to file a tax return.  Here we will be discussing some of the basic factors that can help you determine whether or not you may need to file a tax return this year.

Not all individuals who earn income are required to file taxes. Those who earn a very low income may be exempt from filing a tax return if their gross earnings fall below a specific limit. 

Whether or not you pay taxes is determined by the amount of income you earned, not solely the fact that you earned money. In addition to how much you earned, factors like your age and filing status also determine how much you owe.

You can use the table below to determine how much money you can earn before you are required to file a federal income tax return. Find your filing status in the left column and your age in the center column to locate the income amount. 

If your income exceeds the amount you find in the right column, you are generally required to file a federal tax return.

Filing StatusAge2021 Gross Income
SingleUnder 65$12,550
Single65+$14,250
Married Filing JointlyUnder 65 (both spouses)$25,100
Married Filing Jointly65+ (one spouse)$26,450
Married Filing Jointly65+ (both spouses)$27,800
Married Filing SeparatelyAny$5
Head of HouseholdUnder 65$18,800
Head of Household65+$20,500
Qualifying Widow(er)Under 65$25,100
Qualifying Widow(er)65+$26,450

However, there may be some situations where you are exempt from filing. For example, if you are claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return, it’s possible you may not need to file a tax return. 

If you are self-employed, you must generally file a federal income tax return if your net earnings exceed $400. Self-employed or freelance workers that are not on a set payroll should pay close attention to all income, and are recommended to set money aside, as they will have to pay their tax payments in one full lump sum rather than having it gradually taken from their monthly paycheck.

If you are not required to file a tax return, keep in mind that you might be missing out on potential tax breaks and credits, such as: 

  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit
  • Health Coverage Tax Credit

The IRS has an online questionnaire called the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) that may help simplify the process of determining whether or not you need to file a federal tax return. This interactive tool is only available for U.S. citizens and resident aliens and takes approximately 12 minutes to complete. This list of frequently asked questions includes topics commonly addressed and resolved by utilizing the ITA tool. 

Access the Interactive Tax Assistant here: https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/do-i-need-to-file-a-tax-return 

If you are still unsure about your situation, you might consider filing anyway. It’s often better to file and receive a refund than to be notified that you didn’t pay taxes when you were supposed to. 

You can also ask for help if you are confused about the filing process or how much you should be paying. In addition to tax consultants, there are a number of software packages and websites that can take you step by step through the filing process.

Only those who have a Social Security number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) can file an income tax return. An ITIN is a number issued by the IRS to people unable to obtain a Social Security number for tax processing purposes.  

Those who need to apply for an ITIN should do so at least seven weeks before the tax return’s due date to avoid owing interest and penalties. You can find detailed information about the ITIN, including instructions on how to apply for an ITIN and how to renew an existing ITIN, on the IRS website.

Determining Filing Status

Taxpayers can choose from a few different filing statuses when preparing a tax return. The status they choose influences the kinds of deductions and tax credits they can claim.

  • A tax deduction is an expense or specific amount of money you can subtract from your total income, which lowers your taxable income.
  • A tax credit reduces the amount of taxes you owe.

There are five IRS tax filing statuses:

  • Single
  • Married Filing Jointly
  • Married Filing Separately
  • Head of Household,
  • Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child
    • Refer to the dependents section of this guide to learn more about who the IRS qualifies as a dependent for tax purposes. 

Your marital status on December 31 determines your tax filing status for the entire tax year. For example, if you got married on December 30, 2021, you cannot file your taxes for the 2021 tax year as “Single” or “Head of Household.”

If more than one tax filing status applies to you, it is usually, but not always, best to choose the one that carries the lower tax burden.

Single

Single filing status applies to anyone who is unmarried, legally separated, or divorced according to state law, and who does not qualify for Head of Household status. Single status can be claimed on the following tax forms:

  • 1040
  • 1040-SR

Learn more about tax forms in the “Which Tax Form Do I File?” section of this guide.

Married Filing Jointly

Married couples may choose to file a tax return together or separately, depending on which is more beneficial. Filing jointly means both spouses file one tax return together with their combined income, deductions and credits. It typically results in a higher standard deduction and a bigger refund than with other filing statuses. 

If one spouse died, the other may still file jointly with him or her for the year that the death occurred. Married Filing Jointly status can be claimed on the following tax forms:

  • 1040
  • 1040-SR

Learn more about tax forms in the “Which Tax Form Do I File?” section of this guide.

Married Filing Separately

Some couples choose to file tax returns separately. Spouses who wish to be responsible solely for their own individual tax burden can choose this option. One benefit to filing separately is being held unaccountable for any tax penalties their partner may accrue. 

This may be beneficial if one spouse’s income is extremely different from the income of the other. Also, if one spouse carries a heavy financial burden (such as a large amount of student loan debt, hefty medical expenses, or unpaid back taxes or child support), filing separately may be best. 

Married Filing Separately can be claimed on the following tax forms:

  • 1040
  • 1040-SR

Learn more about tax forms in the “Which Tax Form Do I File?” section.

Head of Household

The Head of the Household status generally applies to individuals who are unmarried but have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for themselves and a qualifying person. This status is often the most beneficial for single parents, because they may qualify for a higher standard deduction and a lower tax rate than filing as a single person.

The qualifying person may be a child, stepchild, or foster child that lived in the home for at least half the year. Head of Household filing status can be claimed on the following tax forms:

  • 1040
  • 1040-SR

Learn more about tax forms in the “Which Tax Form Do I File?section of this guide.

Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child

Widows and widowers with at least one dependent child can choose this filing status and retain the benefits of the Married Filing Jointly status for two years following the death of a spouse. This status is only available to those who did not remarry before the end of the year and who have a child or stepchild living with them year-round.

Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child filing status can be claimed on the following tax forms:

  • 1040
  • 1040-SR

Learn more about tax forms in the “Which Tax Form Do I File?” section.

You can find more detailed information about determining marital status and other relevant filing status information in IRS Publication 501 online, which you can access here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf  

You may also request a printed copy of this form by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Documents and Information Needed to File Taxes

Necessary tax-filing documents may vary between taxpayers depending on a few factors, such as the source of income, filing status, and type of employment. 

However, there are a few common types of documents that most taxpayers use for income filing purposes:

  • Birthdates and Social Security numbers for each family member
  • Wage and earning statements from all employers (W-2, W-2G, 1099)
  • Forms 1099 from banks showing interest and dividends
  • Health Insurance Statements and Affordable Health Care Statements (Forms 1095-A, B, or C) or a Health Insurance Exemption Certificate
  • Medical and dental expense receipts
  • Real estate and property tax records
  • Educational expense records
  • Daycare provider’s tax ID number and the total paid for daycare
  • Copy of last year’s state and federal tax returns
  • Bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit purposes

The type of work you do affects the documents you may need to file your taxes. In most cases, you can categorize your employment into one of the following categories:

  • Self-employed individuals
  • Regular employees 

The category you belong to affects the types of forms you may need in order to provide proof of income. Usually, your employer or hiring company makes this determination for you and provides you with the proper forms when you start working. 

Review the sections below to determine which documents you may need to gather before filing your taxes.

Regular Employees

If you are a regular employee, your company or employer typically determines the work you do and how it will be done. For example, they may set your salary, choose your schedule, and control your job duties. 

For regular employees, employers withhold income tax, Social Security, and Medicare taxes from their paychecks. When new employees are hired, employers generally require them to complete Form W-4 – Employee’s Withholding Certificate, which records the following information for tax purposes:

  • Full name
  • Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Address
  • Marital status
  • Number of dependents
  • Amount of withholding

The total amount of taxes an employee chooses to withhold on Form W-4 affects whether he or she will receive a tax refund or owe money to the IRS.  In general, withholding too much money means a larger refund; withholding too little means owing money during tax season.

When it is time for the regular employee to file taxes, employers provide them with a form called Form W-2 – Wage and Tax Statement. This document shows how much money the employee was paid for the previous year and is necessary when filing income taxes. By law, employers are required to send the W-2 by January 31. 

You can change your W-4 at any point throughout the year by downloading the form, completing it with your information and providing it to your employer. You may need to make changes during certain situations, such as getting married, getting divorced, or getting a new job. For more information about adjusting your W-4, refer to the “How Tax Withholding Affects Your Tax Liability” section.

You can view and download the most current version of both forms in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Employee’s Withholding Certificate (W-4)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf
Wage and Tax Statement (W-2)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw2.pdf

Self-Employed Individuals

If you are self-employed, it typically means that you provide a service on your own terms and are not employed by one single company. There are several terms and titles for self-employed individuals, including the following:

  • Independent contractor
  • Freelancer 
  • Sole proprietor

Self-employed individuals do not usually have any taxes withheld from their pay. They are generally responsible for calculating their own tax liability and making estimated payments to the IRS throughout the year. 

Those who expect to earn $600 or more during the year generally need to submit a Form W-9 – Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification to each person or company who hires them to do a job. The form gives the hirer the following information:

  • Full name 
  • Address
  • Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number 

All companies or individuals that hired and paid you at least $600 can then send you Form 1099, which is necessary for filing your taxes. Unlike a regular employee, you will not receive a W-2. This is because you do not have an employer withholding taxes from your pay. Form 1099 serves as an alternative to this document. 

Most self-employed individuals can expect a 1099-NEC, Non-Employee Compensation. However, if you provided a service to an individual who is not involved in a business or a trade, you may receive Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Information, instead. 

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification (W-9)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw9.pdf
Form 1099-NEC (Non-Employee Compensation)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1099nec.pdf 
Form 1099-MISC (Miscellaneous Information)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1099msc.pdf

Self-employed individuals can find more detailed tax information by visiting the Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center online here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/self-employed-individuals-tax-center

Other Financial Documents

It is often important to keep receipts of major expenses that you plan to claim during tax time, such as medical bills, child care payments, alimony, and child support. This can help maximize your deductions and grant you access to tax credits. 

Financial institutions provide a variety of forms to their clients at tax time to document interest paid and other deductible items. Examples of these include the following:

  • Form 1099-INT: shows interest earned on a bank account or certificate of deposit
  • Form 1099-DIV: reports earnings from individual stocks, mutual funds, dividends, and capital gains
  • Form 1098-E: details interest paid on student loans if it adds up to $600 or more
  • Form 1099-R: provides details of payments from pensions or individual retirement accounts
  • Form 1099-B: details profits from selling stocks, bonds, or mutual funds
  • Form 2439: reports undistributed long-term capital gains or profits from selling property or investments
  • Form 1098: the amount of mortgage interest that was paid in that year

You can view and download these forms using the links provided in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Interest Income (1099-INT)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1099int.pdf
Dividends and Distributions (1099-DIV)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1099div.pdf
Student Loan Interest Statement (1098-E)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1098e.pdf
Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. (1099-R)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1099r_21.pdf
Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions (1099-B)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1099b.pdf
Notice to Shareholder of Undistributed Long-Term Capital Gains (2439)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2439.pdf
Mortgage Interest Statement (1098)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1098.pdf

Individual Tax Credits and Deductions

You may qualify for certain tax credits and deductions that can help you retain more of your earnings. A tax credit provides you with a specific dollar amount reduction in your tax liability. A deduction lowers your amount of taxable income.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefits individuals with low to moderate-income. It takes your income and number of claimed children into account in order to determine whether you qualify. 

You can refer to the following chart provided by the IRS to help you understand the qualification requirements for the EITC. For the 2021 tax year, your earned income may not exceed the following amounts:

Person Filing
Qualifying Children Claimed
colspancolspancolspan
If filing…ZeroOneTwoThree or More
Single, Head of Household, Married Filing Separately* or Widowed$21,430$42,158$47,915$51,464
Married Filing Jointly$27,380$48,108$53,865$57,414

Note: An asterisk (*) indicates taxpayers may qualify if they had a child living with them for more than half of 2021, and either of the following apply:

  • The taxpayer lived apart from their spouse for the last six months of 2021, or 
  • The taxpayer are legally separated according to their state law under a written separation agreement or a decree of separate maintenance and they didn’t live in the same household as their spouse at the end of 2021

The IRS generally holds tax returns for those claiming the EITC until at least February 15.

Education Tax Credits

An education credit can assist you with the cost of higher education by reducing the amount of income tax you have to pay. To qualify, you, your dependent, or a third party must pay certain education expenses. These include tuition, fees, student activity fees, and books; it does not include the cost of room and board. 

The student must be enrolled at an eligible educational institution, such as a college, university, or vocational school. The student must be yourself, your spouse, or a dependent you claim on your tax return.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is a type of education credit available to students pursuing a degree in their first four years of higher education. The amount of the credit totals 100% of the first $2,000 of expenses you paid for each student, and 25% of the next $2,000. 

The current maximum credit amount for the AOTC is $2,500 per student. If you do not owe any tax, 40% or $1,000 could be refunded to you. To qualify for the maximum amount of the credit, students must have at least $4,000 in qualifying expenses.

To determine the exact amount of tuition paid, you can review Form 1098-T (Tuition Statement). Then, you can complete form 8863 and attach it to your 1040.

The Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) is available to students in various years of study. Unlike the AOTC, the LLC can be claimed as many times as needed. The maximum amount of this credit is $2,000 per tax return. 

To qualify for the maximum credit, your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) must fall within certain limits. 

  • Single or Married Filing Separately: $69,000 or less
  • Married Filing Jointly: $138,000 or less

You may qualify for partial credit if your income falls within the following limits:

  • Single or Married Filing Separately: between $59,000 and $69,000
  • Married Filing Jointly: between $118,000 and $138,000 

Claiming this credit requires you to complete Form 8863 and submit it as part of your tax return. You can view and download the forms using the links in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits) – Form 8863https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8863.pdf
Tuition Statement (1098-T)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1098t.pdf

Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

This credit exists to help with the cost of childcare. This year, the Child Tax Credit has been altered to aid families with the rising costs of child expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Rescue Plan not only increased the amount of the Child Tax Credit, but made the credit available to more families, including grandparents and other legal guardians. Additionally, this credit does not impact other federal benefits. 

The limit on the number of expenses that may be used to calculate the credit may not exceed the following amounts:

  • $8,000 for one qualifying dependent
  • $16,000 for two or more qualifying dependents

The IRS requires you to report the names, addresses, Social Security numbers or Employer Identification numbers of all individuals or organizations that have provided care for your child or dependent.  

You can send Form W-10 to the care provider(s) to help you gather all necessary information. However, you do not need to submit W-10 as part of your tax return; keep a copy of this form for your records. 

When you are ready to file your taxes, you’ll need to complete Form 2441 and submit it as part of your tax return. You can view and download the forms using the links in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Dependent Care Provider’s Identification and Certification (W-10)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw10.pdf 
Child and Dependent Care Expenses (2441)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2441.pdf

State Child Tax Credits 

In addition to federal child tax credits that may be available from the federal government, some states provide their own form of child or dependent tax credits. The following table contains the most current information about state-specific child tax credits that may be available to residents.

StateName of Tax Credit Amount of Tax CreditQualification CriteriaMore Information
CaliforniaYoung Child Tax CreditUp to $1,000Taxpayers must be 18 years of age or older and have a child younger than age 6; must have an annual income of $30,000 or lesshttps://www.ftb.ca.gov/file/personal/credits/california-earned-income-tax-credit.html#:~:text=%246%2C728-,If%20you%20qualify%20for%20CalEITC%20and%20have%20a%20child%20under,a%20state%20income%20tax%20return
Colorado*Colorado Child Tax CreditBetween 5% and 30% of the federal child tax credit amount, depending on income and family sizeTaxpayers must have a child age 6 or younger as of December 31, 2022 who qualifies for the federal child tax credit and must meet income requirements:Single filers must have an annual income of $75,000 or less; married couples filing jointly must have an annual income of $85,000 or lesshttps://tax.colorado.gov/CTC-FAQ 
IdahoIdaho Child Tax Credit$205 per childTaxpayers must have a child age 16 or youngerhttps://legislature.idaho.gov/statutesrules/idstat/title63/t63ch30/sect63-3029l/ 
MaineDependent Exemption Tax Credit$300 per childResident, nonresident and part-year residents may qualifyhttps://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/36/title36sec5219-SS.html#:~:text=1.,for%20the%20same%20taxable%20year
MarylandMaryland Child Tax Credit$500 totalTaxpayers must have an annual income of $6,000 or less and have at least one dependent disabled child younger than 17https://www.marylandtaxes.gov/forms/Tax_Publications/Tax_Alerts/21-03-11_SB218_Tax_Alert.pdf 
MassachusettsHousehold Dependent Tax Credit$180 for one child, maximum $360 for two or moreTaxpayers must claim at least one of the following as dependents: children younger than 12 years of age, adults age 65 or older, or anyone with a disabilityhttps://www.mass.gov/service-details/view-child-and-dependent-related-credits 
New MexicoChild Income Tax CreditBetween $75 and $175 per child, depending on incomeTaxpayers must have a minor child or stepchild https://www.governor.state.nm.us/2022/03/08/governor-enacts-tax-cuts-for-new-mexico-seniors-families-and-businesses/#:~:text=House%20Bill%20163%20also%20includes,Mexico%20families%20%2474%20million%20annually 
New YorkEmpire State Child Credit33% of the federal child tax credit or $100 per child, whichever is greaterTaxpayers must have at least one child between the ages of 4 and 16; the taxpayer must either  qualify for a federal child tax credit, additional child tax credit or credit for other dependents OR have an income below the following amounts:Filing as single, head of household or qualifying widower: $75,000Married filing jointly: $110,000Married filing separately: $55,000https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/credits/empire_state_child_credit.htm 
OklahomaChild Tax Credit 5% of the federal child tax credit or 20% of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), whichever is greaterTaxpayers must qualify for the federal credit https://oklahoma.gov/tax.html 

Adoption Credit

This is a nonrefundable credit for the expenses paid to adopt a child. The maximum credit per qualified child is $14,440. The following expenses may qualify for this credit: 

  • Travel costs
  • Adoption fees
  • Court costs
  • Attorney fees

Note: You cannot claim this credit if your income is higher than $256,660. 

The IRS requires all taxpayers claiming this credit to submit proof of expenses. When you’re ready to file your taxes, complete Form 8839 and submit it as part of your tax return. You can view and download the form using the link in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Qualified Adoption Expenses (8839)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8839.pdf 

Health Coverage Tax Credit

The Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) provides deductions for certain workers toward the cost of health insurance premiums. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided eligible former employees temporary 100% premium subsidies on COBRA health plan coverage for the 2021 tax year. 

Only certain individuals may successfully claim the HCTC. Generally, they must:

  • Be Trade Adjustment Assistant (TAA), Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistant (ATAA), or Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistant (TAA) recipients or Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) payees in 2021; or
  • Be a qualifying family member of TAA, ATAA, or RTAA recipients or PBGC payees who passed away or finalized a divorce; or
  • Not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s 2021 tax return.

Additionally, taxpayers wishing to claim the HCTC must also generally meet the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled in a qualified healthcare plan and paid all or a portion of the premiums
  • Not be enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP
  • Not be enrolled in any part of Medicare 
    • Taxpayers with family members who qualify for the HCTC may still claim the HCTC even if they were enrolled in Medicare
  • Not be imprisoned
  • Did not have an employer pay more than 50% of coverage costs
  • Did not receive a 100% COBRA premium reduction from their employer or COBRA administrator

The HCTC is set to expire, which means it can not be claimed for any coverage months beginning in 2022. However, taxpayers may still be able to claim it for Tax Year 2021, which is filed in the early months of 2022.

The IRS has more information about this credit on Form 8885, which can be accessed here: https://www.irs.gov/instructions/i8885 

Saver’s Credit

This credit can help individuals who make contributions to an IRA or an employer-sponsored retirement plan save for retirement. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years of age, not a student, and not be claimed as someone’s dependent. 

Your income must also fall within the following limits:

  • Single, Married Filing Separately or Widowed: up to $34,000
  • Head of Household: up to $51,000
  • Married Filing Jointly: up to $68,000

To claim this credit, you may need to provide proof of making qualified contributions. When you’re ready to file your taxes, complete Form 8880 and submit it as part of your tax return. You can view and download the form using the link in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions (8880)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8880.pdf 

Standard Mileage Deduction

If you are a business owner or are self-employed, you can deduct the mileage on your vehicle as an expense. The mileage rates for 2022 are as follows:

  • $0.585 per mile for business miles driven
  • $0.18 per mile for medical or moving purposes
  • $0.14 per mile for charitable organizations

You also have the option of calculating the actual costs of driving your vehicle instead of claiming the standard mileage deduction.

Standard Deductions

A standard deduction is a fixed dollar amount that reduces your taxable income. The amount may be adjusted each year to account for inflation and varies depending on your filing status. You may only claim the standard deduction if you do not itemize your deductions; learn more about itemized deductions in the next section.

The table below provides information about the standard deductions for the 2021 Tax Year, which refers to all tax returns filed in early 2022:

Filing StatusStandard Deduction
Single$12,550
Head of Household$18,800
Married, filing jointly$25,100
Married, filing separately$12,550
Widow with dependent$25,100

Taxpayers who are at least partially blind or who are age 65 or older may qualify for increased standard deductions. The specific amount depends on filing status:

  • Single or Married Filing Separately: $14,250
  • Married Filing Jointly (one spouse 65 or older): $26,450 
  • Married Filing Jointly (both spouses 65 or older): $27,800 
  • Head of Household: $20,500
  • Widowed: $26,450

Itemized Deductions

If you do not choose to take the standard deduction, you can itemize your deductions separately. This may be beneficial if the sum of all itemized deductions exceeds the amount of the standard deduction for which you qualify.  

Itemized deductions can include the following:

  • Any amounts paid for state and local income or sales taxes
  • Real estate taxes
  • Personal property taxes
  • Mortgage interest
  • Disaster losses
  • Charitable contributions
  • A portion of medical and dental expenses
  • Gifts by cash or check to spouses or political organizations
    • An annual exclusion of $16,000 applies
  • IRA contributions
    • If you are younger than 70 ½ years of age at the end of the tax year and have taxable wages, you may deduct some of your IRA contributions. Refer to Publication 590-A for more information: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p590a.pdf

Dependents

A dependent is a person who relies on someone else for financial support. Dependents are typically considered to fall into one of two categories:

  • Children 
  • Qualified relatives

There are a few factors to consider before claiming a dependent, since not everyone may qualify as a dependent for tax purposes. These factors include the following:

  • Age
  • Relationship to the taxpayer
  • Citizenship status
  • Whether you are the only person claiming them
  • Whether they are filing a joint return with someone else

Taxpayers cannot claim a dependent who has their own dependents or is being claimed by someone else as a dependent. Similarly, individuals who are filing a joint return with someone else (such as a spouse) cannot be claimed as dependent. 

Taxpayers who claim dependents could see a reduction in their taxable income, since it may qualify them for special tax credits and deductions. Once determined as a dependent, petitioners can also figure out other deductions, like medical expenses or daycare. Refer to the “Individual Tax Credits and Deductions” section for more information.

You can use the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) provided by the IRS to determine who qualifies as a dependent and what expenses can be considered as write-offs. Access the Interactive Tax Assistant here: https://apps.irs.gov/app/IPAR.

Dependent Children

If you plan to claim your children as dependents, they must meet the IRS’ definition of a qualified dependent child. In most cases, the following individuals typically qualify as a dependent child: 

  • Daughter
  • Son
  • Stepchild
  • Foster child
  • Adopted child
  • Grandchild
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Half-brother
  • Half-sister
  • Stepbrother
  • Stepsister
  • Niece
  • Nephew

Age also plays a role. Generally, children must be younger than 19 years of age or a full-time student younger than 24 years of age. However, disabled children are exempt from the age restriction.

The taxpayer and the child must live together. Dependent children can have a job and still be claimed as long as the income does not account for more than half of the child’s support. The taxpayer must be covering the other half of the dependent child’s income if they are working. If the child is not working, the taxpayer provides full financial support. 

Dependent children can only be claimed each year by one taxpayer. This rule typically applies to divorced or separated parents. In most cases, the parent who provided more than half of their support and/or has primary custody may be able to claim the child on his or her tax return.

The IRS provides tiebreaker rules and other stipulations regarding claiming children as dependents in Publication 501, which you can access here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf 

Dependent Relatives

One of the main factors when determining if you may be able to claim a relative as a dependent is a financial support. To qualify, more than half of the individual’s financial support should come from you directly.

Also, the individual cannot be making more than $4,300 per year from their own gross income. Keep in mind that if the relative could also qualify as a dependent child, he or she cannot be claimed as both. 

In most cases, the dependent relative must live with you for the entire year. However, certain relatives may still qualify as dependent relatives, even if they don’t live with you. These include the following individuals:

  • Your child, stepchild, foster child, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild)
  • Your adopted child
  • Your brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister
  • Your father, mother, grandparent, or other direct ancestor, excluding a foster parent
  • Your stepfather or stepmother
  • Your niece or nephew
  • A son or daughter of your half brother or half sister
  • Your uncle or aunt
  • Your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law

Death or divorce do not annul the relationships established through marriage. For example, if your spouse dies and you were providing financial support for your father-in-law, you can still claim him as a dependent resident. 

If you still have questions about who may qualify as a dependent relative, you can consult IRS Publication 501 for more information. Access the document here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf 

Which Tax Form Do I File?

Most taxpayers file their taxes using the main tax form known as IRS Form 1040 – U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. This form contains different sections for you to provide information about your annual income and deductions. 

Some older taxpayers may elect to use Form 1040-SR – U.S. Tax Return for Seniors. This form is essentially the same as Form 1040, but contains larger print and a different chart to help seniors understand their deductions.

Nonresident aliens are generally required to file their taxes using form 1040-NR – U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. Like the 1040-SR, it contains much of the same information found on Form 1040. However, it is several pages longer and requires additional information regarding nonresident status.

All variations of Form 1040 are available for electronic filing or paper filing. You can access all 1040 forms using the links in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Tax Form NamePDF Form
U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (1040)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040.pdf
U.S. Tax Return for Seniors (1040-SR)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040s.pdf 
U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return (1040-NR)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040nr.pdf

Schedules

Although most taxpayers file using some variation of Form 1040, some may be required to fill out an additional document, known as a schedule, with their tax return.

There are different types of schedule forms based on the type of income you earn. Learn more about each one in the paragraphs below.

Schedule A

The Schedule A forms is for itemized deductions. It has sections for medical and dental expenses, taxes and interest you may have already paid,  gifts to charity, theft or other losses, and any other qualifying itemized deductions. If you choose to take the standard deduction, you do not need to fill out Schedule A. 

Schedule B

You may need to complete a Schedule B if any of the following applies to you:

  • You have over $1,500 of taxable dividends or interest
  • You have received nterest from a seller-financed mortgage with the buyer using the property as a personal reference
  • You received interest from a bond
  • You are reporting an original issue discount that is less than what’s shown on Form 1099-OID
  • You are claiming an exclusion of interest from a U.S. savings bond or series EE that was issued after 1989
  • You had a financial account in a foreign country or you received financial interest in another country
  • You received an ordinary dividends or interest as a nominee 

Schedule C

Schedule C is for reporting income or losses for a business, including self-employment. 

Schedule D

You may need to complete a Schedule D if any of the following apply:

  • You have an exchange or sale of a capital asset that has not yet been reported on another form or schedule
  • You gave involuntary conversions or capital assets, such as from theft or a casualty, not held for business or profit
  • You have capital gain distributions that you have not reported on your Form 1040 or 1040-NR
  • You have non-business related bad debts 

Schedule E

Schedule E may be required if you need to report a loss or income from the following:

  • S corporations
  • Estates
  • Trusts
  • Royalties
  • Rental real estate
  • Real estate mortgage investment conduits

Schedule EIC

If you receive an earned income credit (EIC), you’ll need to complete a Schedule EIC if you need to provide information about your qualifying children.

Schedule F

Schedule F is used to report farm expenses or income.

Schedule H

Schedule H is for reporting cash wages you paid to a household employee if those wages were subject to Social Security, FUTA taxes, Medicare, or if you withheld federal income tax.

Schedule J

Schedule R

Schedule R is used to claim credit for the elderly or disabled. You can use the form if, by the end of the tax year, you are either:

  • At least 65 years of age, or
  • Younger than age 65, but you retired on permanent and total disability, and you received taxable disability income.

Schedule SE

Schedule SE is used to determine tax liability from self-employment earnings. You can use this form regardless of your age, even if you are already receiving Social Security or Medicare benefits.

Schedule 8812

Schedule 8812 is used to report advance child tax credit payments that you have received, determine your child tax credits, or figure any additional taxes owed if you received excess child tax credits the previous year. 

Downloadable Schedules

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Schedule A – Itemized Deductionshttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sa.pdf
Schedule B – Interest and Ordinary Dividendshttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sb.pdf
Schedule C – Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sc.pdf
Schedule D – Capital Gains and Losseshttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sd.pdf
Schedule E – Supplemental Income and Losshttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040se.pdf
Schedule EIC – Earned Income Credithttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sei.pdf
Schedule F – Profit or Loss from Farminghttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sf.pdf
Schedule H – Household Employment Taxeshttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sh.pdf
Schedule J – Income averaging for Farmers and Fishermenhttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sj.pdf
Schedule R – Credit for the Elderly or the Disabledhttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sr.pdf
Schedule SE – Self-Employment Taxhttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sse.pdf
Schedule 8812 – Credits for Qualifying Children and Other Dependentshttps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040s8.pdf

Additional Tax Forms

Other forms related to filing tax returns include the following:

  • Form 9465 – used to request a monthly tax payment plan
  • Form 4506 – used to request a transcript of a tax return
  • Form 8822 – used for individual, estate, gift, or generation-skipping transfer tax returns
  • Form 1040-ES – used to estimate tax returns (before filing) for self-employment

You can obtain printed copies of tax forms by calling the IRS at 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676) or by stopping by a local IRS office. Many post offices and libraries have the most commonly used tax forms on hand.

You can also view tax forms online on the Forms, Instructions and Publications page, which you can access here: https://www.irs.gov/forms-instructions 

For more detailed information about each form, refer to IRS Publication 17 here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p17.pdf

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Installment Agreement Request (9465)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f9465.pdf
Request for Copy of Tax Return (4506)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506.pdf
Change of Address (8822)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8822.pdf
Estimated Tax for Individuals (1040-ES)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040es.pdf

Steps to File Your Income Tax Return

If you have determined that you’re required to file a tax return, it’s best to do so before the deadline. If you need more time to file your taxes, you may be able to request a filing extension, which provides up to an additional six months to file. Otherwise, you could face late filing penalties.

Learn more about important tax deadlines in the “Tax Dates and Deadlines” section of this guide.

The tax filing process may vary depending on your own personal tax situation, but you can generally file your taxes using the steps outlined below: 

  1. Gather Your Documents. You can find a detailed list of documents you may need to file your income tax return in the “Documents and Information Needed to File Taxes” section of this guide. 
  2. Choose Your Filing Status. Filing status is one of the first questions on income tax returns. However, one or more filing statuses may apply to you. You can learn more about filing statuses in the “Determining Filing Status” section of this guide. 
  3. Determine Your Tax Credits, Deductions, and Exemptions. Tax credits, deductions, and exemptions determine the amount of your refund or taxes owed. You can find more information about tax credits, deductions, and exemptions in the “Individual Tax Credits and Deductions” section of this guide. 
  4. Calculate Your Income: Taxable income is any type of earning that is subject to taxation by state or federal authorities, including wages, commission, bonuses and tips. Additionally, most passive sources of income are taxable, including capital gains, interest, gambling winnings, and Social Security. 
  5. Receive Payment or Pay Taxes: After you file, you will likely either be required to pay taxes for the year or you will receive a refund. You can learn more about receiving a refund or paying taxes in the “Receiving a Tax Refund” section of this guide. 

Receiving a Tax Refund

If you have paid more income tax than what you owe, you’ll receive a tax refund. The IRS issues most tax refunds within 21 days of filing the tax return. In some cases, returns require additional time to review in order to ensure that the correct amount will be received.

If you wish to check the status of your refund, the IRS offers a free online tool to do so. To use the online tool, visit the IRS website here: www.IRS.gov/refunds 

To track the progress of your refund, you will need the following information:

  • Your Social Security or Individual TaxpayerIdentification Number
  • Your filing status
  • Your exact refund amount

You can access this tool 24 hours after e-filing, or four weeks after filing a mail-in return. 

Forms of Payment

There are three different ways to receive your refund:

  1. Direct deposit
  2. Standard paper check
  3. U.S. Series Savings Bonds

The method you choose affects how quickly you receive your refund payment. Continue reading to learn more about each method. 

Direct Deposit

The fastest and most popular form of payment is direct deposit. This is free electronic delivery of your refund money into your bank account. Nearly 80% of U.S. taxpayers use direct deposit to receive their refunds. It eliminates the possibility of a check being stolen or getting lost in the mail and arrives much faster than a paper check. 

Using direct deposit is simple and is available to everyone with a bank account, regardless of the filing method. You can select it as your refund method through the software you use to file your return or tell your tax preparer (if you choose to use a professional). 

To receive your refund electronically, you’ll be asked to enter your bank account and routing numbers. Both of these can typically be found at the bottom of your checks; the account number is written on the right side, and the routing number is the nine-digit code on the left side. If you don’t use checks, you may be able to locate these numbers by logging into your bank’s online account.

When you use direct deposit, you can choose to divide your refund into different accounts. This may be helpful if you wish to start or add to a savings account. Simply designate this in your tax software or advise your tax preparer.

Otherwise, you can use the IRS’ Form 8888 – Allocation of Refund to designate into which accounts the payments will be deposited. Access the form using the link in the table below.

Tax Form NamePDF Form
Allocation of Refund (8888)https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8888.pdf 

Standard Paper Check

You may choose to receive your refund via a paper check. If you elect this option, the IRS mails you your check after your return is processed. 

However, this is often the slowest method of receiving your refund. It could take up to 10 days after the IRS mails the check for it to arrive at your mailing address.

U.S. Savings Bonds

Another form of receiving your tax refund is through savings bonds. You can purchase up to $5,000 of bonds with part or all of your refund for yourself or others. They grow in value for up to 30 years and earn interest.

If you file your own taxes, the software you use can guide you through the process of purchasing a bond with your return. If you use a tax preparer, tell him/her how many bonds you want to buy.

If you file a paper return, use the IRS’ Form 8888, which you can download on the IRS website here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8888.pdf 

Any remaining refund amount after purchasing bonds can be deposited directly into your account or mailed to you in the form of a check. This amount is deposited or mailed first; the bonds can take up to three weeks to arrive. 

If you have any questions regarding the status of your bonds, you can call the Treasury Retail Securities Site at 1-800-553-2663. 

Paying Taxes

In some cases, you may owe taxes instead of getting a refund. Tax refunds imply that you’ve overpaid on taxes, which may not always be the case. For example, if you are self-employed and did not pay taxes throughout the year, you will likely owe taxes when you file. 

You may also owe taxes if you did not have enough taxes withheld from your paychecks or if you received unemployment insurance, but opted to pay taxes at the end of the year. 

Paying Online

One of the most popular methods of paying taxes is paying online directly from your bank account. IRS Direct Pay is free and allows all individual taxpayers to securely make payments by taking the following steps:

  1. Go to http://www.irs.gov/payments/direct-pay
  2. Click on the button that says “Make a Payment”.
  3. Enter your tax information.
  4. Verify your identity/enter your payment information.
  5. Review and electronically sign.
  6. Print the confirmation page and keep for your records.

Once a payment has been made, the status is available online by using the “Payment Lookup” feature: https://directpay.irs.gov/directpay/paymentManager?execution=e1s1

Enter the confirmation number and your SSN (Social Security Number) or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). You can change or cancel your payment here up to two days before the payment date.

Paying by Debit or Credit Card

You can pay taxes securely using your choice of a debit or credit card over the phone, online or on a mobile device. This option is available to all individual taxpayers who have a debit or credit card regardless of the method used to file. Fees associated with this method vary by service provider and card type. Taxpayers can choose their tax processor. 

To pay by card, follow these steps:

  1. Go to https://www.irs.gov/payments
  2. Click the button that says “Pay by Card”.
  3. Review your options and choose a Payment Processor.

If paying online, click on the Payment Processor’s link and follow the steps on the website. If paying by phone, call the corresponding number.

Electronic Federal Tax Payment System

The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) is often the best option for businesses. This free service can be accessed online or by phone 24/7. Individuals can register by going to http://www.eftps.gov and clicking “Enroll”.

EFTPS users must provide three types of unique information to be authenticated: 

  1. Taxpayer Identification Number (EIN or SSN)
  2. Personal Identification Number (PIN) 
  3. Password

The PIN is automatically sent by EFTPS after enrollment. Some benefits include advance payment scheduling and a 16-month payment history.

Other Ways to Pay

Electronic Funds Withdrawal (EFW) is an option available only at the time of filing. You can only choose this method if you file using tax software, a preparer or IRS Free File. You can use the EFW option to file and pay at the same time.

Some financial institutions allow same-day wire. Contact your bank to discuss availability, fees, and deadlines. Submit the Same-Day Taxpayer Worksheet to your bank. You can download the Same-Day Taxpayer Worksheet here: https://download.eftps.com/SameDayPaymentWorksheet.pdf

Checks and money orders can be made out to the U.S. Treasury and mailed. However, the IRS website recommends taxpayers make an online payment. 

Cash payments can be made at some retail locations. The IRS’ website can help you find your nearest location. Note that a $3.99 fee typically applies at the time of service. 

How Tax Withholding Affects Your Tax Liability

Most regular employees fill out a W-4 at the start of employment. The form determines how much money is automatically withheld from each paycheck for federal tax purposes, also known as “tax withholding.”

Withholding too little could mean owing money during tax season; withholding too much means receiving less money per week and often results in a tax refund.

An “allowance” is something that exempts you from certain tax deductions on your paycheck. The more allowances you claim, the less money will be withheld from each paycheck for tax purposes. 

The IRS’ free Tax Withholding Estimator is helpful in deciding how many allowances you should claim, ultimately determining how much money will be automatically withheld from your paychecks.

You can access the Withholding Estimator on the IRS website here: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/tax-withholding-estimator 

Why Would I Need to Adjust My Withholding?

Your financial situation is not permanent. Each year, it is a good idea to reevaluate your financial state by making note of any lifestyle changes, which may include the following events:

  • Getting a new or second job
  • Getting married or divorced
  • Having a baby
  • Becoming unemployed for part or all of the year

Although some of these changes might seem minor, they can potentially have a big impact on the number of allowances you can claim. For example, having a baby allows you to claim an additional allowance and may qualify you for the Child Tax Credit and Child Care Credit. Getting married allows you to file jointly, meaning you could qualify for a lower tax rate and other deductions.

The Withholding Estimator available on the IRS website can help you get a better idea of how much you may need to adjust your withholding. You can access the estimator by typing in the following URL: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/tax-withholding-estimator

How to Adjust Your Withholding

If you need to adjust your withholding, you can speak with your employer. The only way to make these changes to your tax withholding is to complete a new W-4 with your employer.

How Much Can You Get Back on Your Tax Refund?

The most common question among taxpayers is how much their tax refund will be. The basic rule of thumb is individuals who pay more taxes than what they owe typically receive a refund from the IRS. Those who pay fewer taxes than what they owe typically need to pay the IRS.

Part of what determines your refund amount (or if you’ll receive a refund at all) is whether you choose to take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions. You may need to analyze all of your documents related to income and finances to determine which deduction option is best and choose the one that results in the higher deduction, if that is the best overall option for you.

Your filing status also affects whether you qualify for a refund. Deduction amounts vary depending on filing status. Refer to the deduction table provided in the “Standard Deductions” section.

Estimating Your Taxes

To estimate your tax liability (the amount of money the IRS collects from you), you can use several online tax calculators to get a better idea. You can also examine your own income, deductions, and credits.

Step one in the process is to determine your gross income for the year. This is found for most on a W-2 form. Some taxpayers may also need to add tips, self-employment earnings, commissions and bonuses. Taxpayers also need to add interests, dividends, stocks and 401k distributions. 

Next, deduct any exemptions from the total gross income. This refers to dependent exemptions, mortgage interest, educational expenses and state taxes, among many others. You can find the full list of deductions on Publication 501, which you can access here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf

Then, you should consider any taxes already paid and tax liabilities. Most employers withhold taxes from your paychecks, which you can typically see on your W-2 form. Tax liability is established by the IRS and can be calculated on a 1040 tax form.

Lastly, calculate the potential return by taking the tax liability and subtracting tax credits and taxes withheld. Then, subtract the total amount of taxes paid. If the total is a negative figure, this would be the estimated refund amount. 

However, this is only an estimation; taxpayers will not know the exact amount until they file their taxes, as other fees and reductions may apply. 

Consider this example of an estimated return for a single filer. Let’s say his estimated tax liability is $6,300, and he had $5,700 worth of taxes withheld throughout the year. If he qualifies for $1,500 in eligible tax credits, he can estimate a tax refund of $900.

$6,300 – $1,500 = $4,800

$4,800 – $5,700 = -$900, which means he overpaid by $900

2021-2022 Federal Tax Rates

Another factor to consider when estimating your tax liability is the specific tax bracket you fall into. Americans fall under different groups of taxable income and corresponding tax rates, which can change yearly to adjust for inflation. There are also variances in the number of income tax allowances allowed each year.

Your annual income determines how much you owe in taxes to the IRS. The U.S. tax brackets are currently separated into 7 categories: 

  • 10%
  • 12%
  • 22%
  • 24%
  • 32%
  • 35%
  • 37%

If you find that you have moved into a new bracket, it does not necessarily mean you will be paying more. Refer to the tables below, which are categorized by filing status, to find the federal tax rates for Tax Year 2021 (for returns filed in 2022).

Tax Rates for Single Filers

Annual Taxable IncomeTax Year 2021 Tax Rate
$0 to $9,95010% of taxable income
$9,951 to $40,525$995 plus 12% of the amount over $9,950
$40,526 to $86,375$4,664 plus 22% of the amount over $40,525
$86,376 to $164,925$14,751 plus 24% of the amount over $86,375
$164,926 to $209,425$33,603 plus 32% of the amount over $164,925
$209,426 to $523,600$47,843 plus 35% of the amount over $209,425
$523,601 or more$157,804.25 plus 37% of the amount over $523,600

Tax Rates For Married Couples Filing Jointly or Widow(er)s

Annual Taxable IncomeTax Year 2021 Tax Rate
$0 to $19,90010% of taxable income
$19,901 to $81,050$1,990 plus 12% of the amount over $19,900
$81,051 to $172,750$9,328 plus 22% of the amount over $81,050
$172,751 to $329,850$29,502 plus 24% of the amount over $172,750
$329,851 to $418,850$67,206 plus 32% of the amount over $329,850
$418,851 to $628,300$95,686 plus 35% of the amount over $418,850
$628,301 or more$168,993.50 plus 37% of the amount over $628,300

Tax Rates for Married Couples Filing Separately

Annual Taxable IncomeTax Year 2021 Tax Rate
$0 to $9,95010% of taxable income
$9,951 to $40,525$995 plus 12% of the amount over $9,950
$40,526 to $86,375$4,664 plus 22% of the amount over $40,525
$86,376 to $164,925$14,751 plus 24% of the amount over $86,375
$164,926 to $209,425$33,603 plus 32% of the amount over $164,925
$209,426 to $314,150$47,843 plus 35% of the amount over $209,425
$314,151 or more$84,496.75 plus 37% of the amount over $314,150

Tax Rates for Heads of Household

Annual Taxable IncomeTax Year 2021 Tax Rate
$0 to $14,20010% of taxable income
$14,201 to $54,200$1,420 plus 12% of the amount over $14,200
$54,201 to $86,350$6,220 plus 22% of the amount over $54,200
$86,351 to $164,900$13,293 plus 24% of the amount over $86,350
$164,901 to $209,400$32,145 plus 32% of the amount over $164,900
$209,401 to $523,600$46,385 plus 35% of the amount over $209,400
$523,601 or more$156,355 plus 37% of the amount over $523,600

The Potential Consequences of Incorrect Filing

Getting the highest possible tax refund is often a priority for many taxpayers. However, it is important to file with correct and updated information. Submitting a tax return with false or misleading information could result in heavy consequences.   

There are many common mistakes that taxpayers make that provide incorrect information to the IRS. You can avoid these common pitfalls by double-checking the information you provide and ensuring that you report any income you receive, including any self-employment, tips, and commission income amounts. 

The IRS has the right to audit any taxpayer, which is a full review of the tax return and an investigation into all information provided. Taxpayers who are found guilty of knowingly providing false or inaccurate information in an attempt to receive a higher refund could face hefty fines, tax penalties, and even possible jail time. Additionally, lying on a tax return could disqualify the taxpayer from receiving future aid from government assistance programs. 

The IRS provides information on the various credits petitioners may qualify for and how to correctly claim them. Access the IRS information at the following website:  https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions-for-individuals

Stipulations for IRS Audits

Although some audits may be random, there are certain triggers that could increase the chances of an IRS audit. Taxpayers with incomes at or above $200,000 have a much higher chance of getting audited. 

If a taxpayer is found to have underpaid their taxes during previous years, the IRS likely performs an audit. Other things that can trigger an audit include a large loss declared, large charitable deductions, or filing using Schedule C as a small business.

The IRS usually notifies taxpayers by mail if their taxes may be up for an audit. The notice also includes information about the next steps and what they need to provide for the auditing process. 

The IRS website provides answers to common questions about the audit process. You can access the Audit process FAQ here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/irs-audits

Stress-Free Tactics for a Successful Tax Season

Tax season can be a stressful time for some, especially those who have their own business or have complicated income reporting.

However, there are a few things you can do to help ease the process. From staying organized to hiring a tax professional, exploring a few strategies for a stress-free tax season can help you stay on track with your finances.

If you want to receive the biggest refund possible, it’s important to report all income and deductions. Also, it helps to keep all personal information in a safe place and to try to file early to avoid fraud or identity theft. And, if you make any claims, be sure to maintain proper documentation to back it up. 

Here are a few tips you can use to reduce stress during tax season. 

Tax Season Organization

Before filing your taxes or visiting with a tax professional, it helps to compile all the appropriate paperwork. The first and most important thing to compile are Social Security numbers and forms of ID for yourself and anyone else who may be included on your tax return, such as a spouse or dependent.

Next, organize the income paperwork you have received. Most employees receive a W-2 from every employer they have worked for in the previous year by the end of January of the following year. The W-2 includes all income earned, the total taxable income amount and any taxes withheld. Independent contractors instead receive a 1099 form that only shows gross income.

Self-employed taxpayers should find all receipts, documents, mileage records and bills related to business expenses. There may be other financial-related documents petitioners may need for tax filings. 

Any savings account statements, stocks and student loan payments are also included on your taxes. Some of this information can be found on forms like 1099-INT, 1099- DIV, 1098-T and 1099-B. 

You can find links to these forms in the “Additional Financial Documents” section of this guide.

Homeowners have tax-deductible interest on mortgages, which are recorded on a 1098 form mailed to homeowners by their lender. Vacation homes and home equity interest payments can also be deducted. 

You may qualify for a charity tax deduction for charitable donations made throughout the year that equate to at least 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).  For all donations you plan to claim, you must attach a receipt to show the amount donated. After compiling all of the paperwork, it is time to start filing on your own or meet with an accountant or tax professional to assist you in filing your taxes.

Why Hire a Professional

When it’s time to file your taxes, you may choose to file on your own or seek assistance from a tax professional. Since most professionals charge a fee for tax filing, you may consider skipping the bill and calculating your taxes yourself.

However, doing your taxes on your own may not result in the highest refund possible. Tax preparers are educated and trained to find all possible deductions and ensure there are no incorrect deductions that could cost you more in the future. 

Tax professionals are also knowledgeable on tax laws and regulations, so they may be able to help you avoid an audit. If you’re like most other taxpayers, you may not be fully aware of all federal and state tax laws, putting you at risk of making a costly mistake when filing.

Taxpayers with a business need to file business taxes and personal taxes separately. This means having separate bank accounts and credit cards. It may be best for small business owners to seek help from a CPA to help them learn about tax liabilities and tax codes that can affect their business. 

If you choose to hire a tax professional, do your due diligence and verify that he or she is licensed. You should also check that the professional signs the tax return using the Preparer Tax ID. 

There are a few other things to consider before hiring a tax preparer:

  • Read and understand all charges and fees 
  • Ask for his or her professional history
  • Review your returns before filing 
  • Read customer reviews 

If you are having trouble finding a tax professional, you can consult the IRS directory to find one that services your area. The IRS also has other recommendations for things to be wary of when choosing a tax professional. You can access it here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/choose-your-tax-preparer-wisely

Ways to Invest Your Tax Refund

Oftentimes, tax refunds may feel like “free” money, or the opportunity to buy something extravagant that you wouldn’t normally purchase. While the sudden extra income may make it tempting to splurge, there may be smarter ways to use the cash.

First, it is important to remember that your tax return is not really “free money”. This money is pulled directly from your income and you have to work for every dollar of it. With that perspective in mind, you may understand that it’s important to invest wisely. 

The average refund is about $2,860; placed in the right area, that lump sum can make a major difference in your finances. The section below includes some helpful information about some smart ways to invest your refund.

Re-Establish a Solid Emergency Fund

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times from financial gurus and well-meaning grandparents, but having an emergency fund is one of the best financial protections you can give yourself. However, life happens; even if you have built your emergency fund before, it often gets depleted due to sudden expenses.

A general rule of thumb when it comes to your emergency fund is to have at least three months of living expenses set aside. While you can set a little aside from each paycheck, one car wreck or a trip to the hospital can leave you needing more in a hurry. 

One of the fastest ways to rebuild your emergency fund and avoid credit card debt is to take that tax refund and place it to the side for when you need it the most.

Invest in a Strong Stock

While investing in stocks often seems like a risky option, with the right research, it can be a smart money decision. Your tax refund is a great way to invest in a mutual fund or stock that you have had your eye on but perhaps could not afford at the time. 

It is important to remember, however, to always do your research and consult the experts before jumping into a specific stock.

Purchase the Insurance You Need

Chances are when you purchased your insurance, you were thinking of a “best case” scenario. Unfortunately, the best case is not always a reality. Natural disasters, theft and unexpected damages occur every day, and they can really hurt your wallet. 

You may consider taking some of that extra money to fill the holes in your insurance and sleep soundly knowing you are prepared for whatever life throws your way.

Open a Savings Account for Your Child

Saving money is a lesson that should be taught from a young age. By taking the extra money from your tax return and opening a Roth IRA for your child, he or she may be able to earn interest on money they save over the years.

Pay Off Your Vacation in Advance

Not only are vacations planned in advance more affordable, but they also keep you from having to use your credit card and consequently racking up interest on all of your purchases. Some airlines even let you set up a payment plan to gradually pay off expensive flights.

What Do I Pay Taxes On?

There are a few standard items that you typically have to pay taxes on, like your income or a new home. However, there are additional tax categories that many Americans are surprised to find on their tax bills. Below are some of the lesser-known tax categories.

Social Security Benefits

Americans who file a tax return as an individual and have an income of at least $25,000 pay federal taxes on their Social Security benefits. 

However, those who file as a couple only have to pay this tax if the combined income is more than $32,000.

Gifts

Were you given a fancy new car, or maybe even a house? While it may feel like a gift, the truth is, gifts often come at a price. The IRS imposes a gift tax on any large gifts or prizes you receive with a value more than $14,000. This includes friends or family assisting with tuition or even medical bills. 

An easy way to avoid this tax, however, is by ensuring the check is made out to the school or institution receiving the payment instead of directly to the individual.

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are designed to fill the gaps in your income until you find new employment. While this program can be a major asset during a difficult time, it is important to keep in mind that it is fully taxable. 

However, you can request to have the required tax withheld from each monthly payment, rather than having to pay it in one full amount.

Gambling Winnings

There is something incredibly exciting about hitting the jackpot in Vegas! Unfortunately, if that jackpot is more than $600, it is not entirely yours. Your winnings are considered additional income and do require that you pay a tax on them. Even if your winnings were less than $600, you are still required to report them.

Airbnb Profits

Airbnb rental homes are on the rise, and it has never been easier to rent out your flat for a bit of extra cash. However, the IRS can view this as a type of business, depending on how long you rent out your place. 

If you rent a home or room for less than 15 days, then the money is not taxable. Anything past those 15 days, however, is considered a business and generally requires that you pay occupancy taxes.

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Need some extra cash to get your business running or fulfill a passion project? Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe are great prospects when it comes to funding your business. However, any money you receive from crowdfunding is subject to federal taxes. 

eBay Profits

Selling your used items online falls into a different category of taxes. Whether or not you have to pay taxes on your eBay profit depends on the thin line between a business or a hobby. This is determined by the amount of income you receive, how much time you spend selling on eBay and the manner in which you engage with buyers.

Additional Tax Rate Breakdown

Income sourceTaxable percentage
Social Security Benefits50%
eBay Profits5.2%-8.9%
Unemployment Benefits6%
Gifts/Winnings40%
Airbnb Profits28%
Crowdfunding Campaigns25%
Income source

State Taxes

Most states impose a state income tax, which is separate from federal income tax. The money paid is collected and used by the state rather than the federal government. 

States have different income tax rates, which reflect the local cost of living. Not all states impose an income tax, and some are significantly lower than others. Furthermore, some states have a flat income tax rate, which means everyone pays the same rate regardless of income. 

Sales taxes are paid on various goods and services including clothing and entertainment. Some items are classified into a luxury tax category, also known as excise taxes. These often include airplane tickets, gas, cigarettes, firearms and beer. Specifically, the gas excise tax helps maintain and build bridges, highways, and transit systems.

Property taxes are placed on homes, land, businesses, and personal property like cars, boats, and livestock. For homes, the tax is based on the property value and is paid monthly along with mortgage payments to the mortgage holder. 

2021-2022 State Tax Rates

The table below includes information about 2021-2022 state tax rates.

StateIncome Tax RateMedian Property Tax RateSales Tax Rate
Alabama2% – 5%0.33%4%
Alaska0%1.04%0%
Arizona2.59% – 8%0.72%5.6%
Arkansas2% – 5.9%0.52%6.5%
California1% – 13.3%0.74%7.25%
Colorado4.63%0.6%2.9%
Connecticut3% – 6.99%1.63%6.35%
Delaware0% – 6.6%0.43%0%
Florida0%0.97%6%
Georgia1% – 5.75%0.83%4%
Hawaii1.4% – 11%0.26%4%
Idaho1.125% – 6.925%0.69%6%
Illinois4.95%1.73%6.25%
Indiana3.23%0.85%7%
Iowa0.33% – 8.53%1.29%6%
Kansas3.1% – 5.7%1.29%6.5%
Kentucky5% 0.72%6%
Louisiana2% – 6%0.18%4.45%
Maine5.8% – 7.15%1.09%5.5%
Maryland2% – 5.75%0.876%
Massachusetts5%1.04%6.25%
Michigan4.25%1.62%6%
Minnesota5.35% – 9.85%1.05%6.875%
Mississippi3% – 550.52%7%
Missouri1.5% – 5.4%0.91%4.225%
Montana1% – 6.9%0.83%0%
Nebraska2.46% – 6.84%1.76%5.5%
Nevada0%0.84%6.85%
New Hampshire5%1.86%0%
New Jersey1.4% – 10.75%2.42%6.625%
New Mexico1.7% – 5.9%0.55%5.125%
New York4% – 10.9%1.23%4%
North Carolina5.25%0.78%4.75%
North Dakota1.1% – 2.9%1.42%5%
Ohio0% – 4.797%1.35%5.75%
Oklahoma0.5% – 5%0.74%4.5%
Oregon4.75% – 9.9%0.87%0%
Pennsylvania3.07%1.35%6%
Rhode island3.75% – 5.99%1.35%7%
South Carolina0% – 7%0.5%6%
South Dakota0%1.28%4.5%
Tennessee0%0.68%7%
Texas0%1.81%6.25%
Utah4.95%0.6%6.1%
Vermont3.35% – 8.75%1.59%6%
Virginia2% – 5.75%0.74%5.3%
Washington0%0.92%6.5%
Washington DC4% – 8.95%0.56%6%
West Virginia3% – 6.5%0.49%6%
Wisconsin3.54% – 7.65%1.76%5%
Wyoming0%0.58%4%

An Overview of Tax Changes in 2022

Each year, states and the federal government review current tax laws and may make changes or amendments to ensure taxes are being withheld properly and are benefitting taxpayers.

Taxes can be imposed on everything from clothing, alcohol, and beer, to property and sugary drinks, among other items. Taxes are used to benefit the community where taxpayers live. Not every tax law is applicable to individual taxpayers. 

For example, the gasoline tax is meant to only be for taxpayers who use roads and highways. Taxpayers can stay updated on tax changes in their state by visiting their state government website and staying involved with local legislation.

Federal Tax Changes

For 2022, there are a couple of tax changes taxpayers may want to be aware of. One significant change involves increases to standard deductions for all filing groups. Refer to the “Standard Deductions” section of this guide to view the most current deduction amounts.

Additionally, tax brackets have been adjusted and some tax credit benefit amounts have increased, including the Earned Income Tax Credit. Visit the “2021-2022 Federal Tax Rates” section to learn more.

State Tax Changes

Several states made significant tax changes for 2022. For example, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Oklahoma reduced individual income taxes, while the District of Columbia increased income taxes. 

Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma reduced corporate income tax rates, while Florida increased corporate income tax rates. 

Iowa began phasing out inheritance taxes. 

Local Tax Changes

Local tax rates saw some minor changes throughout the country this year. The most notable change involved certain cities in New Jersey, where qualifying sellers can collect and remit at half of the statewide sales tax rate, a policy that was designed to help retailers compete with neighboring Delaware cities that do not impose a sales tax. 

Filling Multiple State Tax Returns

There are various reasons why a taxpayer may need to file a tax return in multiple states. Filing multiple returns is required when a person has either worked or lived in more than one state during the calendar year. 

If you or your spouse commute to work in another state or have moved states, this may apply to you. There are three main categories for this type of return:

  1. Resident
  2. Nonresident
  3. Part-year resident

Resident tax returns are for taxpayers who reside and work in one state. Nonresident tax returns are for taxpayers who earned income in a state that is not their primary residence. A part-year tax return is for taxpayers who have moved to a different state during the year. 

If you are unsure of which filing option to use, you can refer to the IRS website for more detailed information or consult with a tax preparer. However, keep in mind that consulting with a preparer may require payment.  

You can access the IRS website here: https://www.irs.gov/filing/e-file-options

You can also check your state website for more information about filing more than one state tax return. 

Permanent Moves

When a taxpayer moves from one state to another, he or she typically must file a part-time return for each state. For example, Sally lived in Illinois from January 2021 to July 2021. She then moved to Arkansas and has lived there for the remainder of the year. Sally should file one return with Illinois and a return with Arkansas.

Working in Another State

When a taxpayer works in one state and resides in another, he or she may need to file both a resident and non-resident tax return. A nonresident return is typically filed for the state in which the taxpayer works and includes any wages earned in the state. 

Several states participate in a reciprocal agreement, which adds an option for commuting workers. Spouses who file jointly can still do so when they work in different states. They can file multiple returns and only include wages for each state on the tax return.

Reciprocal Agreements

Some states allow taxpayers to work in another state and only pay taxes in their home state. This allows taxpayers the ability to only file one state tax return instead of multiple. Each state that participates in reciprocal agreements has certain stipulations. 

Taxpayers can often file exemptions with their participating employer to be excused from paying taxes in both states. These forms can be found by visiting the appropriate state government website. 

State of EmploymentState of ResidenceExemption form
ArizonaCalifornia, Indiana, Oregon, Virginiahttps://azdor.gov/forms/withholding-forms/withholding-exemption-certificate 
District of ColumbiaAny statehttps://otr.cfo.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/otr/publication/attachments/2018%20D-4A.pdf
IllinoisIowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentuckyhttps://www2.illinois.gov/rev/forms/withholding/Documents/currentyear/IL-W-5-NR.pdf
IndianaKentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvaniahttps://forms.in.gov/Download.aspx?id=2419
IowaIllinoishttps://tax.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-08/EmployeesStatementOfNonresidence%2844016%29.pdf
KentuckyIndiana, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohiohttps://revenue.ky.gov/Forms/42A804%20(K-4)%20(2022)(11-21).pdf
MarylandPennsylvania, D.C., West Virginia, Virginiahttps://www.marylandtaxes.gov/forms/20_forms/505.pdf
MichiganIllinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsinhttps://www.michigan.gov/documents/taxes/MI-W4_370050_7.pdf
MinnesotaMichigan, North Dakotahttps://www.revenue.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/2021-12/m1nr_21_0.pdf
MontanaNorth Dakotahttps://mtrevenue.gov/publications/montana-employees-withholding-allowance-and-exemption-certificate-form-mw-4/?mdocs-file=56168&mdocs-url=false
New JerseyPennsylvaniahttps://www.nj.gov/treasury/taxation/pdf/other_forms/tgi-ee/2018/nj165.pdf
North DakotaMontana, Minnesotahttps://www.tax.nd.gov/sites/www/files/documents/forms/business/ndwrfillable.pdf
OhioIndiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginiahttps://tax.ohio.gov/static/forms/employer_withholding/Generic/WTH_IT4NR.pdf
PennsylvaniaIndiana, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, Virginiahttps://www.revenue.pa.gov/FormsandPublications/FormsforIndividuals/PIT/Documents/rev-419.pdf
VirginiaD.C., Maryland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginiahttps://www.tax.virginia.gov/forms/search?search=va-4+&year=All&category=All&type=All
West VirginiaKentucky, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohiohttps://tax.wv.gov/Documents/TaxForms/it104nr.pdf
WisconsinIllinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michiganhttps://www.revenue.wi.gov/TaxForms2020/w-220f.pdf

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