prepared to file taxesTax season is in full swing, which means it’s time for you to get ready to file your taxes. To combat tax identity theft, you’ll want to make sure you file as soon as you can, but before you rush to your CPA or your preferred online tax service, there are a handful of things you need to consider to ensure everything goes smoothly. Keep reading to learn about how you can financially prepare to file your 2018 tax return.

Familiarize yourself with tax changes

Filing taxes this year is going to be different, but not just because it’s a new year. The current administration’s tax changes — a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — are set to alter a number of things, like the standard deduction, the appropriate amounts of withholding for your income bracket, as well as when you might need to append to your tax return, depending on which form you file. The particulars of how the new tax law will affect you depend on your tax bracket and whether or not you need to itemize. If you need help figuring out what aspects of your finances need to be evaluated in light of the new tax policy, you should browse the IRS’ website or consult a tax professional.

Review your documents

Once you understand how the new tax laws impact you, make sure to review the documents that you’ll be submitting with your return. Remember when deciding what documents to provide the IRS that you’ll need to account for major life changes like marriage, moves, new jobs, new homes and kids. Also, keep in mind that whatever you intend to claim as a deduction should be confirmed with receipts.

Know if you owe or are owed payment

The most important part of being ready to file is knowing whether you owe Uncle Sam, or if he owes you. Ideally, you should have adjusted your W-4 last year to reflect the appropriate amount of withholding for your tax obligation. If not, check your W-2 (you should have a copy of it by now) and use an income tax calculator (free calculators are available online, like this one from H&R Block). Even if you don’t file using an online tax service, you can still get a general idea of what you will owe or get refunded. If you end up owing, you may want to adjust your 2019 W-4 so you won’t owe again next year. If you’re not sure how to adjust it, use the IRS’ withholding calculator.

What should you do if you owe?

If you owe taxes, you’ll hopefully have funds set aside for payment. If not, the IRS does offer several installment plans that will allow you to extend your payment date, but these aren’t without drawbacks. While the IRS’ short-term payment plan, which requires you to pay the full amount in 120 days or less, has no setup fee, you’ll still accrue penalties and interest until the balance is finally paid in full. The IRS’ long-term plan without automatic withdrawals costs $149 to set up online and $225 to set up via mail, phone or in person (should you not qualify for the low-income fee waiver of $43). Many taxpayers likely qualify for online setup with automatic withdrawals, which costs $31 to set up (or free if you qualify as low income), but keep in mind that until the balance is paid off, the IRS compounds interest on outstanding payments daily.

If you want to avoid the IRS’ interest, or you just want to pay off the IRS completely, a credit card might be the best payment option for you. That’s because you can avoid interest with a 0% intro APR card, or even earn rewards on your tax bill with the right cash back or travel card. Not all cards are created equal, though, and using the wrong card to pay your IRS bill will just cost you in the long run, especially since the IRS charges a credit card processing fee of at least 1.87% (with a $2.99 minimum). This means you’ll want to look for a card that will make the fee worthwhile. If you’d prefer a rewards card, you’ll want one that’ll net you at least 2% back either in the form of cash back or travel. Those who’d prefer a 0% intro APR card should look for one with a long enough 0% intro APR to pay off their IRS bill. You may have to take a loss for the processing fee, depending on the card, but you won’t be paying any interest, which means you’ll likely still come out money ahead. Keep reading to see our picks of the best credit cards for paying taxes.

Best credit cards for paying taxes

When it comes to making the most out of paying your tax bill, the following cards can turn your payment into an opportunity to either save some money or earn some rewards (and intro bonuses) on a bill you’re already planning to pay.

Our favorite for cash back and 0% intro APR: Chase Freedom Unlimited

prepared to file taxesIf you’d like a card that not only earns cash back on your IRS bill, but also offers a long 0% intro APR period, Chase Freedom Unlimited is for you. Kicking things off is a $150 intro bonus that you’ll earn after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months — something that’s probably easy to do when you owe the IRS. On top of that, purchases made with Chase Freedom Unlimited (including your tax bill) will earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back. When you combine this intro bonus with the ongoing rewards, it really makes sense to use Chase Freedom Unlimited for your IRS payment. Add in the card’s 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee, $5 minimum) — meaning you can avoid paying interest for 15 months — and you have one well-rounded card. Chase Freedom Unlimited is available to those with good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher) and it has no annual fee.

Our favorite for cash back: Citi Double Cash Card

prepared to file taxesThe Citi Double Cash Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is a solid choice for those who want to earn cash back on their IRS bill and those who are able to pay off the balance in full. That’s because while this card offers an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee, $5 minimum), it does not offer a 0% intro APR on purchases, which means you’ll want to pay off any balance as soon as possible. The aspect of this card that makes it appealing for paying the IRS is its ongoing cash back rewards. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you make a purchase with the card and another 1% back when you pay for that purchase. Other perks of the Citi Double Cash Card, which is available to those with good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher), include no annual fee, Citi’s Price Rewind feature, which helps you make sure you got the best price on your card purchases, and a free copy of your Equifax FICO score every month.

Our favorite for travel rewards: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

prepared to file taxesThose who would rather earn travel rewards should check out the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. It’s got a massive 70,000-mile intro bonus for those who spend $5,000 in their first 90 days of account opening — that’s worth a whopping $700 in travel! Additionally, all purchases made with the card earn 2 miles per $1 spent, which is a huge boon to those hoping to acquire miles quickly and earn some rewards on their tax bill. As if that isn’t enough, every time you redeem your miles, you’ll earn 5% of your miles back to use toward your next redemption. What makes this card even more appealing for travelers is the fact that it has no foreign transaction fees and its annual fee ($89) is waived for the first year. It’s also worth noting that this card is available to those with good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher) and it has a 12-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made within your first 45 days with the card (with a 3% balance transfer fee, $5 minimum).

What if you paid with another credit card?

If you plan to or already paid with another credit card that’s charging a high interest rate, you might want to consider a balance transfer credit card. Balance transfers usually come with a 3% to 5% balance transfer fee, but this one-time fee is likely a lot lower than your current interest rate. While there are cards with no balance transfer fees, these cards can sometimes end up costing you more in the long run. Not sure which balance transfer card is best for you? Here’s our top pick:

Our favorite for balance transfers: Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card

prepared to file taxesThe Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card offers an 18-month 0% intro APR on purchases and on any balance transfers made in the first 120 days of account opening. You’ll pay a 3% intro balance transfer fee on transfers made in the first 120 days (after that, it’s 5%), but the long 0% intro APR makes the fee worth paying. On top of that, the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card offers up to $600 mobile protection against covered damage or theft (with a $25 deductible per claim and a maximum of 2 claims per year) to cardholders who use their card to pay their monthly cell phone bill. The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card requires good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher) and charges no annual fee.

Tax season is stressful, but it doesn’t need to be if you make sure you’re financial prepared to file. Follow our personal finance blog to learn more about all things credit.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.