Common Questions on Filing Taxes for the First Time

Getting your first job can bring a new feeling of financial freedom. But it also comes
with financial responsibilities, like filing and paying your taxes.

While filing taxes for the first time can seem complicated, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are answers to some of the most common questions of first-time tax filers.

Which Tax Form Do I File?

It depends on your circumstances, but many first-timers file a 1040-EZ, as in “easy.” This is the simplest way to file taxes for those who take the standard deduction that most filers are entitled to. This tax deduction reduces the amount of income on which you are taxed.

In some cases, itemizing your deductions will allow you to reduce your taxable income by a larger amount than the standard deduction. In this case, itemized deductions go on Schedule A of the standard Form 1040. If you decide to list individual tax deductions against your salary, you’ll need records to prove the amount you paid on qualifying expenses, such as job search-related travel, non-reimbursed employee business expenses, and charitable contributions paid via payroll (shown on pay stubs).

If you have a more complicated financial situation, you may need to use another tax form. For example, if you have children, have income beyond wages, receive unemployment compensation, or gain more than $1,500 annually from bank account interest, check with the IRS to see which form you should use.

Whichever form you use, before you file your taxes, make copies of the forms you are submitting and your personal documents for your records. They can also act as a template for future tax filings. Download all tax forms at

What Forms Do I Need to Prepare My Taxes?

In late January or early February, you should receive the tax information you need to fill in your tax forms from various sources.

If you are a full- or part-time employee, a W-2 from your employer will outline your salary, plus any taxes withheld. Boxes on this form are labeled with numbers that correspond to the tax forms you’ll need to fill out. Each tax form will tell you where to look on your W-2 to find the necessary information.

If you are self-employed as a freelancer or independent contractor, you will probably need a 1099-MISC from each person or business that paid you for your work during the previous year. Since it is likely that no taxes were withheld, these statements probably list only earnings. You’ll probably need to file a Schedule C form too.

If you are in business for yourself, work as an independent contractor or sole proprietor, or are a member of a partnership that carries on a trade or business, learn more about self-employment taxes.

If you have earned $10 or more in income from interest-bearing accounts, you’ll need a 1099-INT form from each bank (or other source of that income). You may also need tax documents that highlight student loan interest you’ve paid (Form 1098-E) or records of contributions to an IRA.

If you haven’t received all applicable tax forms by Feb. 15, contact the appropriate employer, bank, or other source.

Remember: The IRS should be receiving copies of these forms as well, and will use them to verify the information you provide on your tax return. Discrepancies could lead to a tax audit, so it is important that you provide accurate information.

How Do I Know If I Need to File Taxes?

If you’re a student, ask your parents whether they’re listing you as a dependent or claiming your college costs, including tuition and books, on their return. If so, you may not need to submit forms, or you’ll need to ensure your forms don’t conflict. For instance, if your parents claim you as a dependent, you aren’t allowed to claim yourself. The 2017 limit for each exemption — personal and dependent — is $4,050 (subject to a phase-out at certain income levels).

There are also minimum income requirements for filing taxes. This means that if your gross income was under the minimum threshold, you don’t have to file a tax return.

Who Can Help Me File My Tax Return?

You have plenty of options for assistance with filing your taxes. If you’re able to use the 1040-EZ, you can use the IRS’ Free File software. If you are using a different form, you can go it alone, hire a professional tax preparer, or buy tax prep software.

Software programs, like TaxSlayer, outline the records you need and flag potential deductions, which reduces the opportunity for mistakes. They also allow you to e-file with direct deposit, meaning you may receive tax refunds quicker.

If you hire an accountant or tax preparer, determine upfront the estimated fees you’ll pay to make sure it’s worth the money. You may also be able to find a professional to review your finished work for a nominal fee. Keep in mind that tax preparers are usually booked solid in the days leading up to the tax day deadline.

If you prepare early and leave yourself plenty of time, filing your taxes for the first time can be a painless process.

Don’t let the tax deadline creep up on you. Use this tax-time checklist to keep your paperwork in order and avoid a last-minute time crunch.


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This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.

2018 TaxSlayer LLC and Regions Bank. Regions Bank is pleased to make TaxSlayer services available to our customers. Regions Bank does not provide the product or service and makes no representations or warranties regarding your use of TaxSlayer. See for details and limitations on TaxSlayer’s Guaranteed Maximum Refund. TaxSlayer and other related marks are registered trademarks of TaxSlayer LLC and should not be used or reproduced without consent.