How to Do Your Taxes in 2024: a DIY Tax Filing Guide

A Guide to Filing your Taxes in 2024

This DIY tax filing guide has been updated for the 2024 tax filing (2023 tax year). We’re smack dab in the middle of the 2024 tax filing season. If you visit the IRS website and have a look around, there really is no simple tax guide to get you started (there is a 142-page book, but who has time for that?), and DIY tax filing can seem overwhelming for individuals not versed in the U.S. tax code. If you’re a first-time tax DIYer, you’re often on your own as far as figuring out the basics of how to do taxes. Even if you’re an experienced DIYer, keeping up with all of the changes is tedious. So, I wanted to lend a hand. This article will highlight a good chunk of things to know if you are doing your own taxes. Even for those who have DIY tax experience – you’ll find value here as well – with updates on what’s new for 2024 tax filing, deadlines, credits, deductions, tax tips from readers, tax software discounts, and much more.

Disclaimer: I’m not an accountant or tax pro, so don’t view me as such. I’m a personal finance writer who has been DIYing my own taxes for a while and will hopefully be able to provide you with some info and tips you weren’t aware of that you can explore further.

how to do taxes DIY guide

What’s New for the 2024 Tax Season (2023 Tax Year Filing)?

Here are some things to take note of prior to filing your 2022 tax return:

What Tax Forms do You Need to do your Taxes?

Before you get started, you’ll need to get tax forms from your employer(s), bank(s), brokerage(s), and more. Without proper forms, you can’t do your taxes. Common forms include:

  • W-2: income, withholding, etc. from your employer
  • 1095A: if you bought health insurance on a state or federal exchange.
  • 1098: mortgage interest paid, over $600.
  • 1098-T: higher education expenses paid.
  • 1098-E: student loan interest paid.
  • 1099-B: investment brokerage statement that covers gains/losses from trades.
  • 1099-DIV: investment brokerage statement that covers any taxable capital gains or dividends paid out to you.
  • 1099-INT: taxable interest exceeding $10, typically from a savings, checking, CD, or money market bank account.
  • 1099-MISC: miscellaneous income exceeding $600 from any one source (e.g. freelance or consulting work).
  • 1099-NEC: a newer form for freelance/gig-worker income. NEC = “non-employee” compensation.
  • 1099-SA: if you took distributions from an HSA, this form documents how much.

If you have not yet received forms you are expecting in the mail, I would recommend logging in to the respective account online and trying to find the form there to download.

Do I Need to File a Tax Return?

You may be wondering “Do I need to file a tax return?“. See that article for full details, but there may be scenarios where you do not need to file a tax return, including if your income is below specified minimum income thresholds. However, even in these scenarios, it may still be advantageous to file a federal tax return, as you may be eligible for at least one of a number of refundable tax credits from the IRS or other benefits.

Get an Identity Protection PIN and/or File your Taxes Early to Help Prevent Tax Identity Theft

Tax identity theft fraud is a problem. This occurs when fraudulent tax returns for refunds are filed in your name. How can you help avoid this? You can get an IRS Identity Protection PIN to help prevent tax fraud. The PINs are available to all taxpayers for the first time. Think of it as a 2-factor authentication for tax filing.

If you don’t get a PIN, the longer you wait to file a return, the greater the chance someone could fraudulently beat you to it and claim a refund in your name. If you file sooner, you reduce that risk.

If you have self-employment income, you should also consider using an IRS EIN number in place of a Social Security Number to help limit the possibility of SSN theft.

And creating an IRS account online is 1 of the 5 government accounts everyone should create.

How Should I File my Taxes?

Last year, 150,141,000 of the 162,037,000 returns, or 92.6%, of returns were e-filed (impressive). E-filing is the quickest, safest, and most reliable way to file.

Where Should I E-file?

There are many free or cheap ways to e-file. Below are a few deals from the best vendors (with steep discounts via affiliate partnership offers):

My favorite (and my picks for the best tax software programs) are:

  • H&R Block: 20%+ partner discount at link
  • TurboTax: best partner discount at link
  • TaxSlayer: 15% partner discount at link
  • TaxAct: 20% partner discount at link
  • Cash App Taxes: free filing (with form limitations). “Cash App taxes” was formerly “Credit Karma Tax”, now owned by Square/Cash App.

Other popular tax prep programs include:

How Should I Pay My Taxes?

For reasons I just highlighted, I recommend that you pay your taxes online – it’s quicker, safer, more reliable, and can help prevent identity theft tax fraud.

There are ways to actually pay your taxes with a credit card and profit. With estimated tax payments, there are abundant opportunities to do so (if you do it wisely).

When can I Start Filing my Taxes this year?

The tax filing start date was Monday, January 29, 2024. So, long as you have all of the required income, deduction, and other tax forms you are expecting, you can begin filing your return ASAP.

When is the Tax Deadline?

This year’s IRS tax filing deadline is Monday, April 15 – with a few exceptions (check the IRS disaster relief page for further details):

  • Tennessee storm and tornado victims have until June 17, 2024, to file various federal individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.
  • Connecticut taxpayers affected by severe storms, flooding and a potential dam breach that began on Jan. 10. These taxpayers now have until June 17, 2024, to file various federal individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.
  • Rhode Island taxpayers impacted by storms qualify for tax relief; various deadlines postponed to June 17.
  • Maine taxpayers impacted by severe storms and flooding qualify for tax relief; various deadlines postponed to June 17.
  • West Virginia taxpayers impacted by severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides qualify for tax relief; various deadlines postponed to June 17.
  • Michigan taxpayers impacted by severe storms, tornadoes and flooding qualify for tax relief; various deadlines postponed to June 17.

The tax filing deadline AND payment deadline, if you are out of country, is Monday, June 17, 2024 .

Note that these are the dates that you must have your return postmarked or e-filed.

If you have income from self-employment or other income that is not typically withheld, you may need to make estimated tax payments throughout the year. The estimated payment due dates in 2024 are as follows:

Quarter:Time Period:Estimated Tax Payment Deadlines (2024):
Q4, 2023September 1, 2023 - December 31, 2023January 16, 2024
Q1, 2024January 1, 2024 - March 31, 2024April 15, 2024
Q2, 2024April 1, 2024 - May 31, 2024June 17, 2024
Q3, 2024June 1, 2024 - August 31, 2024September 16, 2024
Q4, 2024September 1, 2024 - December 31, 2024January 15, 2025

What if I Need to File a Tax Extension?

If, for one reason or another, you are unable to file your tax return by the April 15 tax deadline, you can file for an IRS tax extension, which will extend the due date of your filing by 6 months (Tuesday, October 15, 2024). The extension must be postmarked by the April 15 deadline also.

Also, a key disclaimer – an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. Any taxes due are still due on the normal filing deadline date. If you don’t pay by the deadline, you could owe interest and possibly a penalty on taxes owed.

How to File a Tax Extension

In order to file a tax extension, you will need to fill out IRS form 4868 by the tax deadline.

What if I Need to Amend my Tax Return?

If you’ve already filed your taxes, but later found your return to be incorrect or incomplete, here is how to file an amended tax return with the IRS. You may also need to file an amended state return.

Can I Still Lower my Tax Obligation for Last Year?

Yes. Even after a calendar year is over, there are still last minute tax deductions and credits that can lower your taxes, up until the tax deadline.

You can contribute to personal retirement accounts, such as a Roth or Traditional IRA, Keogh Plan, HSA (believe it or not), and SEP IRA. Contributions are considered tax-deductible since you will pay taxes on that income when you withdraw funds. The IRA contribution deadline and HSA contribution deadline are the same date as the tax deadline.

Contributing will lower your overall adjusted gross income (AGI) and potentially bring you a bigger return or cut the taxes you owe. And it’s an “above the line” deduction, which means that you do not need to itemize to claim it.

Make sure your income is eligible for these contributions, based on income level, before you contribute. If your income is low enough, you might also qualify for the Saver’s Credit for contributing to one of these types of retirement accounts.

However, it is too late to take advantage of many tax deductions for 2023, such as charitable contributions or employee contributions to tax advantaged accounts (e.g. employer-sponsored 401Ks, 403Bs, 457Bs). With few exceptions, the deadline to contribute was the final day of the calendar year.

Should I Take the Standard Deduction or Itemize My Taxes?

If you have a sizable amount of tax credits and deductions, it wouldn’t hurt to run the numbers to see if itemizing your taxes could result in a lower tax obligation for you versus a standard deduction. Itemizing deductions could even put you in to a lower tax bracket.

With the Tax Cut & Jobs Act enacted a few years ago, the standard deductions had nearly doubled, and significantly fewer taxpayers are itemizing deductions (only about 10% vs 40% previously).

The standard deductions for the 2023 tax year are:

Filing Status:Standard Deduction Amount:
Married Filing Separately (spouse cannot itemize)$13,850
Married Filing Jointly (& Surviving Spouses)$27,700
Head of Household$20,800
Additional Standard Deduction for Age 65+ or Blind$1,500
Additional Standard Deduction for Age 65+ or Blind AND unmarried or not a surviving spouse$1,850
Personal Exemption$0

If your itemized deductions don’t surpass those amounts, the standard deduction is the way to go (and it’s simpler).

The Most Popular Tax Deductions and Credits

If you did any of the following during 2023, it could impact your tax filing:

  • If you made home energy efficiency improvements? You could qualify for an energy tax credit. The credits for efficiency home improvement for windows, doors, furnaces, etc. were expanded for 2023 in the Inflation Reduction Act. The sustainable credits for solar, fuel cells, wind, and geothermal were also restored to higher levels and expanded for 2023. New energy rebates were also created that will start in 2024, with details rolling out this year, per state.
  • Pay interest on a mortgage or property tax? Both are deductible. The state and local property, income, and sales taxes (SALT) deduction is capped at $10,000.
  • Buy an electric or plug-in electric vehicle? You may be eligible for an electric vehicle tax credit from the IRS (and potentially receive a state electric vehicle tax credit too). The Inflation Reduction Act made some major changes to the credit for 2023 and 2024.
  • If you have earned income below certain levels, you might be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
  • If you sold investments at a loss and those losses were greater than your gains, you could claim a capital loss tax deduction.
  • Have a child this year or act as guardian for at least half a year? You could claim a Child Tax Credit. The refundable amount has a slight increase versus older levels.
  • Have self-employment income? You may be able to deduct business related expenses and your home office and can contribute a portion of your income to self-employment retirement accounts, such as a Solo 401KSEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA. And you may still be able to contribute for last year.
  • Participate in the sharing economy? The IRS has created a Gig Economy tax guide to help you make sense of deductions (and income) that you should report.
  • There is a 20% deduction for incomes from “pass-through” entities (partnerships, S Corps, sole proprietorships) for most business types.
  • Contribute to an HSA outside of payroll? That’s deductible.
  • Pay tuition or have other education related expenses? There are education tax credits and deductions that you can claim. Note that the “Tuition and Fees Deduction” was repealed for years 2021 and after.
  • Make charitable donations? You can still deduct them if you itemize, but most will be better off claiming a standard deduction. Note that there is a IRS maximum charitable donation limit. Unfortunately, the universal charitable donation deduction has expired for 2022.

What if I Get a Refund?

Getting a tax refund is not a good thing. A refund is the equivalent of loaning your paycheck to the federal government, interest-free, over the prior year. And refunds typically result in a spending spree that I like to call Tax Refund Windfall Syndrome.

The average tax refund last year was $3,145. That’s $3,145 in interest-free loans from 105,734,000 lenders (aka taxpayers), for a combined $335 billion. This works out to just over 65% of returns resulting in a refund.

If you’re overpaying and want to stop giving out an interest-free loan to the government, use the new IRS withholding tax analyzer in coordination with the new W-4 form. The goal should be to aim for a slight amount due back to the government, without having to pay a penalty. That way, you’re the one getting the interest-free loan, and you have more money over the rest of the year that you can save in employer sponsored retirement accounts.

How Can I Check my Tax Refund Status?

If you start getting worried or just plain impatient, you can check on your tax refund status.

Beware of scams in the form of helping you check your refund status. Keep in mind that the IRS will never send you an email with this option. To check it, you should go to and click ‘where’s my refund‘.

What is the Presidential Election Campaign Box on the 1040 Form?

Ever wonder what the ominous Presidential Election Campaign box on your 1040 form does and if it has an impact on your taxes due (or refund)? It has no impact on your tax filing, and the funds are the only source of public financing for Presidential primary and general elections. Funds also go towards pediatric cancer research through the NIH. So go ahead and check that box!

How Long Should you Keep your Tax Records?

There are varying opinions on how long to keep your tax records. I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to being ready for possible audits. The IRS has a 3-year period of limitations, within which you can be audited or amend your returns.

However, if they have reason to believe that you have filed a fraudulent return or no return at all, they can audit you at any time. Some states have a statute of limitations that is longer that 3 years as well. So, I personally recommend keeping 3 years of paper documentation, but then going the extra step of digitizing documentation and keeping it stored securely in the cloud. It will help you sleep easier at night.

Happy filing!

2024 Tax Return Filing Discussion:

  • Have you started or finished your tax return yet?
  • How did you first learn how to do your taxes?
  • Are you expecting a refund or taxes owed?
  • What are your favorite tax tips?

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