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Tips for filing your 2023 tax return

Individuals 02.16.2024 3 MIN

Whether you’re a first-time tax filer or an old hand, tax season can feel overwhelming. We’ve put together this guide to help make preparing your taxes a little less intimidating—especially if you’re taking the DIY route on your personal return this year.


In this guide, we’ll discuss important dates, terms, refunds and more.

April 15, 2024: Tax day

April 15 is when 2023 personal tax returns are due. Keeping this in mind—and starting to prepare early—can help save you from the stress of scrambling at the last minute and the risk of potentially paying penalties for missing deadlines. Taxpayers can request an automatic 6-month extension to file their federal income tax return, but it’s important to note that this does not extend the due date for paying any taxes owed.


If you have an IRA, this is also the last day you can make 2023 IRA contributions.


The basics: Federal income tax brackets, deductions and credits

During tax season, you’ll likely hear terms like “tax brackets,” “deductions” and “credits.” All three affect your tax liability, or the amount of taxes you owe to the federal government in a given tax year.


Federal income tax brackets

Your tax bracket, also known as your “marginal tax rate,” is based on your income and filing status (e.g., single, married filing jointly, etc.). This helps to determine the amount of taxes you owe each year.

There are seven federal tax brackets, or rates, 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, 37%. The amount of your tax bill is calculated, in part, by applying these rates to your annual taxable income.

US federal tax rates are progressive. This means different portions of your taxable income are taxed at different rates based on the IRS federal income tax table.*

For example, a single filer with a taxable income of $32,000 in 2023 is in the 12% bracket.

For the 2023 tax year, the first $11,000 of that taxable income would be taxed at 10%. The remaining $21,000 ($32,000 - $11,000) would be taxed at 12%.

Keep in mind, your tax bracket isn’t the only thing that determines your tax bill.


Reducing your tax bill: Deductions and credits

Tax deductions reduce your taxable income, which in turn can help lower your tax bill. When you’re doing your personal taxes, you can choose either to take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions. Typically, individuals choose the deduction method that provides the largest reduction to their taxable income. But keep in mind that each person’s tax situation is different. To learn more about which approach may be right for you, check out this IRS resource.*

A tax credit, on the other hand, directly lowers your tax bill, dollar-for-dollar. For example, if you’re eligible to claim a $500 credit on your tax return and your tax bill is $1,500, that credit could reduce your tax bill to $1,000 ($1,500 - $500).

You may be eligible for certain deductions and credits based on your personal situation. Consult a tax professional if you have questions.


Preparing your federal tax return

If your taxes are complex, you may want to budget a little extra time to get your forms and documents together. And for reference, you may also want to bookmark this IRS tax information webpage for individuals filing a return.

Regardless of your situation, tax preparation generally involves four key steps:

1.    Gather your tax documents and financial statements

2.    Complete your tax forms

3.    Assemble and file your tax return

4.    Receive your refund or pay your bill


Getting a tax refund?

If you're getting a tax refund this year, here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Maximize your company’s match in your 401(k)
  • Pay down your debt
  • Put it in your emergency fund
  • Maximize your HSA, IRA or 401(k) to the IRS contribution limit
  • Invest the money

If you’re looking for a status update, you can use the IRS refund tracker. To use the tool, you need your Social Security number (or individual taxpayer identification number), filing status and exact refund amount.


Keeping tax records

After you’ve filed, be sure to reorganize your tax documents and forms, and store them in a safe place. This will be helpful if you ever need to:

  • Respond to IRS questions or audit
  • Amend a tax return
  • Prepare for next year’s return
  • Provide tax information for certain applications (e.g., home loan, financial aid, etc.)

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