How To Do Your Own Taxes and Feel Confident

Claire Hunsaker
Claire Hunsaker

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Have you ever corralled a group of 6-8 women through a day of activities, meals, mutually-acceptable budget, booze and who gets to sit closest to the bride at the spa?

It is LEGIT harder to organize a bachelorette party than it is to do your own taxes. I say that as someone who loves doing both.

A third of American taxpayers – over 50 Million people –  use TurboTax or H&R Block to submit their tax returns directly. On top of that, millions more use TaxSlayer (recommended), CreditKarma (heard good things) and other tax software. America has a super complex and sexist tax code, but very few tax situations require a tax pro. You can do your own taxes.

Two thirds of women can even do their taxes for free…

Lean into TurboTax 

There are healthy arguments not to pay TurboTax or H&R Block for their tax software. Do I want to fund their lobbying effort that keeps our tax system ridiculously complex, expensive and inequitable? No. But I also need to do my taxes every year, so I get credit for social security and stay on the right side of the law. Death and taxes – both inevitable.

Systems that calculate the taxes for a huge portion of Americans have a vested interest in working out Every. Single. Weird. Situation. And in making your experience intuitive. I have answered many, many obscure tax questions on the TurboTax community forums. There is safety in numbers, and women should take advantage of it. 

Taxes are an open book exam – you can look up anything you don’t feel comfortable with. You can do your own taxes.

You Can Probably Do Your Own Taxes FOR FREE

The IRS sponsors a FreeFile partnership that allows most taxpayers to complete their taxes for free. Using TurboTax and other similar software. According to ProPublica, around 104 million taxpayers were eligible for Free File in 2019 – two-thirds of taxpayers.

How many people filed for free?

About 2.4%

I recommend the free versions of TurboTax (they don’t pay me), and covered the four best options for free tax prep. Sure Intuit will try to upsell you, but how many times has the average american woman not fallen prey to advertising this morning? Many times (sips coffee she bought on sale). 

What happens if you make a mistake on your taxes?

When upwards of 50 Million people do their own taxes, mistakes happen. Lots of mistakes. One of three things will happen:

You figure it out.

Just file an amended return with whatever software you used the first time. This could happen because your employer screwed up your W2 or 1099 (happened to me) or because you forgot you had a dependent (I’m not going to name names, but the baby was really little and no one was sleeping). It happens. It’s not the end of the world. 

The IRS finds the error… or thinks they found an error.

You will get a notice in the mail, and the first thing you should do is CALL THEM. I’ve been on the phone with the IRS a lot –  fixing mistakes I made, mistakes they made and mistakes other people made. IRS reps are wonderful! No, really. You might be on hold for a while, but they are the opposite of the DMV and have seen everything. It will give you faith in the government. Se habla español también!

No one finds it.

Lots of taxes get filed with errors. Some of them get found during an audit. Some of them just live in error forever. Tax returns are checked by computers, not people (no one is grading you). Only 1% of returns get audited. Don’t get creative or lie on your taxes, and it probably won’t be you. 

If you have a complex tax situation or just want peace of mind, you can also get audit defense for $50, through TurboTax or directly from TaxAudit.com.

Open the wine – It’s OK to make it fun. 

I’m not going to fault you for not lovvving doing your own taxes, starting them 48 hours before the filing deadline, or opening the wine and doing your first draft slightly buzzed. Taxes are a lot of data entry. I manually entered 47 different stock transactions this year, and have two words to make that less painful: pinot noir. 

Do what you need to do to make them fun. Think of them as selfcare. Do them with a friend. Make it a personal challenge. Give yourself a little treat when you’re done. But remember, you CAN do them. Feel free to reach out to us with questions.

Join our AskFlossie community where all women are empowered with community and knowledge to build stronger financial lives. We’re here to be your financial wingwoman!

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