Filing income taxes is not something most people enjoy, but it can result in a refund of money that will help improve your financial picture. Because taxes aren't fun, many people pay professionals to do it for them, but paying someone else to do your taxes may eat into that refund. Fortunately, there is an alternative that's getting easier and easier to take each year: filing taxes online for yourself through online services, such as FreeFileU

If you plan to take this route, here are a few top tips to make sure you get everything you deserve.

Wait for Forms

If you had more than one employer or source of income, don't rush out to do your taxes as soon as you receive one form. Wait for income statement forms (usually Form W-2 or Form 1099) from all sources, even those you may have forgotten about.

The deadline for making these forms available is generally January 31, so plan to do your taxes in the first part of February to ensure you have everything. 

Get Your Numbers Handy

Before beginning to do your return online, save yourself some frustration by gathering all your information in one place. This includes:

  • All income sources
  • Social Security or ITIN numbers for everyone on your return
  • Form 1098-T from any college-enrolled dependents
  • Business expenses
  • Business mileage
  • Health insurance proof (Form 1095)
  • Copy of last year's tax return
  • IRS letter containing a PIN number if one was sent to you

Getting your stuff organized will make the actual filing process easier and less stressful. It's also a good idea to have your spouse or dependents nearby in case you need any information from them (such as their income, birthdates, or school receipts).

Use Help Buttons

As you work through your online Form 1040, you will undoubtedly have at least a few questions. And all online filing services generally offer help topics and buttons you can click to get more information. Use these aids, and read through them even if you think you may know the answer.

Check out your chosen online filing service before beginning to determine what aids they offer, such as Frequently Asked Questions, user forums, professional answer sections, or referrals to IRS materials. 

Don't Be Afraid of IRS Instructions

Speaking of IRS materials....don't discount their usefulness. Publication 17 contains the main tax guidelines most taxpayers need, and it's not really as confusing as it might at first appear (due to its sheer size!). Download it or peruse it at the IRS website to see how it's laid out in sections and subsections with largely understandable wording and real life examples. 

Armed with these tips, you can start work on filing your own taxes online with confidence and excitement. You'll know you can not only do this, but you can do it well.