A step-by-step guide on filing your taxes without a CPA

Filing taxes online is quick, affordable method to get tax information sent to IRS

When it comes time to file your taxes, you pretty much have two roads you can go down. If you don't want to go through the hassle of doing your taxes yourself and don't mind dishing out extra cash, you can pay an accountant to take care of the process for you.

The second option is to file your taxes yourself. You can do this by mail or through electronic software. There is one other option that lies slightly in between the two, and that is filing on your own electronically but paying a small fee to have a tax expert assist you with the process.

If paying an accountant isn’t an option financially, here is a step-by-step guide on how to file your taxes.


  1. Gather all necessary paperwork
  2. Identify deductions
  3. Options for filing

1. Gather all necessary paperwork 

The first step is getting all of your paperwork together. To file, you are going to need any W-2 forms from all the employers you had in the last year. You will also need to gather any 1099 forms that you have, if any. These forms are issued for work done independently, according to NewsCore.

IRS tax return form 1040

The first step to tax filing is to get all the necessary paperwork together, including all of your income forms from the last year. This includes both W-2 forms and 1099s. (iStock / iStock)

When filing, you'll need personal information and information about dependents, if applicable.

Based on a tax checklist by H&R Block, if you are or were unemployed, you'll need your 1099-G form. You will need additional forms if you are self-employed, collecting rental income or have retirement income and/or any investment information.

2. Identify deductions 

According to H&R Block, you will also need to look at the types of deductions for which you qualify. This includes if you own a home, have donated money, have any medical or child care expenses, educational expenses, classroom expenses, retirement savings, etc. Each person's situation is different, so make sure to check the IRS website to be sure you submit all the necessary information. 

3. Options for filing 

Once you have everything together, you can begin filing. Avoid filing until you are sure you have received all your tax documents. If you happen to receive additional documents after you have already submitted, don't panic. This just means that you may have to file an amended return. Form 1040X is used to make these changes.


Although it is not the most popular method, you can still fill out your forms the old-fashioned way and send them through the mail to the IRS. The more common and more effective way to file is electronically. There are so many reasons why filing your taxes electronically is a better option, according to Motley Fool.

Internal Revenue Service

Filing your taxes electronically is the fastest way to get your information sent to the IRS and will result in a faster refund. (Al Drago / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

If you file electronically, there is no chance that your forms will get lost in the mail. Also, the process goes a lot faster when you are filing electronically, which means if you are getting a tax refund, it will arrive sooner.

There’s also a bit more accuracy with electronic filing. If you do make an error, something as simple as misspelling your name or mistaking a digit of your Social Security number, you will know right away and be able to resubmit. If you file through the mail, you won’t know that you made a mistake until the IRS takes a look at your forms, meaning that there could be a delay in your filing and your refund. According to the IRS, if there is an error in your taxes, it could take more than 120 days to get your tax refund processed.

One of the most popular types of software used to file taxes electronically is TurboTax. This service may not be free depending on how complicated your tax situation is, according to the website. 


If you have a simple tax return, you can file your taxes for free through TurboTax. If your tax return is more complicated, you will not be able to use the free version and will have to pay a fee for the service, depending on the complexity of your tax situation.

If you want any guidance from a tax professional while going through the filing process, TurboTax offers this to users for an additional charge. 

Stack of tax papers

Even though filing electronically is the most popular and fastest way to file, you can still fill out the forms by hand and send them through the mail. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

You can also file for free through H&R Block. Again, like TurboTax, there is a free option available for those who qualify with a simple return. You will need to pay a fee if your taxes are more complicated or if you want the help of a tax expert.

Another option for filing taxes online is by using the IRS Free File tool on the IRS website. You are eligible to use this tool if your adjusted gross income is $79,000 or less, according to the IRS.


No matter how you choose to file, if you have any questions or get stuck along the way, you will more than likely be able to find an answer on the IRS website.