Filling out a state income tax return can range from simple to very complex. Most states have "short forms" that can be used by residents who only have wages to report. For other filers with income from other sources, such as retirement distributions, real estate holdings, business investments and stock market transactions, additional forms and worksheets may be required and the resulting tax returns can be many pages long. Fortunately, if you have already completed a federal income tax return, much of what you will need to enter on your state return has already been completed and can simply be copied over.
Fill out your Form 1040 federal income tax return. Enter all of your income and all deductions that you are entitled to claim. After you've completed your federal return, review the instructions provided with your state tax return. Most of the information required on both returns will be the same; however, there are a few notable differences. For example, on your federal return, state income taxes that you've paid during the year count as a deduction; but on your state return, your state tax payments will give you a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your state income tax liability. Review the instructions for filing your taxes in your particular state for other notable differences.
Consult tax publications issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and your state for help completing each tax return. The IRS provides exhaustive support for Form 1040 filers and much of this information will apply to your state tax return. In addition, the IRS provides links to each state's website where you can find further information relevant to the tax forms that you must file in your home state.
Use tax software or a website that specializes in online tax preparation and electronic filing such as TurboTax. Filing taxes today is much simpler than it was a few decades ago, before the advent of computers and the Internet. Most tax preparation programs and websites walk you through a friendly "interview" to get the necessary information for your tax returns. Once you've answered some basic questions using information from your W-2s, 1099s and other documents, your taxes are calculated quickly and accurately, and the information is entered on the various federal and state tax forms. Print out a copy of your tax forms for your records. Then, decide whether you want to mail in your tax return or e-file and you are done with your federal and state taxes for another year.