Tax guide

Filing Your Taxes 101

Updated for filing 2021 tax returns

What Do I Need to Know to File My Own Tax Return Online?

Want a hands-on version? Grab our free printable checklist.

When you get started with e-filing, you need to collect:

  • A copy of last year’s tax return (you’ll need prior-year AGI to prove your identity when you file online)
  • Identification numbers
  • Personal information
  • Income source documents (if you have them)
  • Interest and dividend statements (if you have them)
  • Bank account number and RTN for direct deposit or payment
  • Childcare info and expenses
  • Mortgage information, if you own a home
  • A list of charitable donations with receipts (or other qualified proof of donation)
  • Driver’s License (required by some states)

Getting comfortable with the info in this section will really smooth out the process, help you finish sooner, and get your refund on the way.

What sort of identification number and personal info do I need to file my taxes online?

Before you even start, everyone on your return has to have a taxpayer ID number. That can be a Social Security Number (SSN), an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN). You’ll also need the correct date of birth for each person on your return, along with full names.

If you add a spouse or dependents to your return, each full name, birth date, and ID number must match what the IRS has on file. The IRS uses what’s on the Social Security card or other taxpayer ID. If the name, ID number, and date of birth don’t match, the IRS will reject your return and ask you to correct the information.

Which documents do I need when I file my taxes?

Preparing your tax return will be easier if the tax documents you need are organized and readily available:

  • A copy of last year’s tax return (you’ll need prior-year AGI to prove your identity when you file online)
  • Letter 6475 if you received the third economic impact payment
  • Letter 6419 if you received any early Child Tax Credit payments
  • Income source documents: Forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-MISC, 1099-NEC, 1099-G, 1099-SSA, 1099-R, etc.
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks, brokerages, etc.: 1099-INT, 1099-DIV
  • Bank routing and account numbers
  • The amount you paid for childcare and the childcare provider’s tax identification number
  • Form 1098 from your mortgage lender
  • Other less common tax reporting forms you may receive, such as 1099-A, 1099-B, 1099-C, 1099-K, 1099-OID, 1099-Q, 1099-S, 1099-SA
  • Receipts for charitable donations
  • Driver’s license state of issuance, expiration date, and license number (required by some states to confirm your identity and protect against tax refund fraud)

Is filing my taxes online the best way to file my return?

For sending a tax return to the IRS, filing online is the best option by far. E-filing has eclipsed the old way of mailing in returns, as it is faster, more accurate, and more secure.

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When can I file my taxes, and what’s the deadline?

The date that the IRS officially starts accepting e-filed returns varies from year to year. Typically, you can get your taxes processed as soon as the third week of January, but sometimes circumstances can push that back to late January or early February.

That said, you can usually complete your taxes online before the IRS official “go live” date. It’s a good idea to file early, too--since you’ll be closer to the top of the queue once processing starts, you’ll be one of the first in line for return and refund processing.

The filing deadline is normally April 15, but the deadline can be a day or two later if the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday, and even later depending on any national emergencies.
If you need more time to file beyond the deadline, you can get an extension until October 15 (typically an additional six months).

For this year's deadlines, see our IRS Tax Dates page.

Are there any tax forms that can’t be filed online?

Almost every tax form can be filed online, but certain types of individual tax returns cannot be e-filed, such as:

  • 1040 non-resident returns
  • Some prior-year returns

Feel good about taxes when you file with

We believe that tax filing should be simple. More than half the battle is having your information ready when you sit down. After that, the hard part’s over! Just use your records to answer our simple questions, and we’ll calculate your maximum refund in the background.

Best of all, you’ll get our chat support, direct deposit, and as many state tax returns as you need for one low price of $25. It’s a pretty sweet deal, so be sure to sign up or log in to get started on your taxes today!

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