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Welcome to the Real World: Paperwork and Taxes

Out in the real world, there's a whole lot of paperwork to fill out, turn in, and hang on to. Here's a quick overview of the documents you'll probably come face-to-face with in the near future.

The W-4
Every time you get a new job, you'll fill out this form, designed to let the government know how many taxes to take out of each of your paycheck. If you're single and childless, you'll probably claim either 1 or 0. Remember: the more money they withhold, the less you owe next April and vice-versa.

The I-9
If you've done a W-4, you've done an I-9. It's the form that ensures you're a United States citizen or, if not, that you're eligible to work here. Have some ID ready for this one.

Health Insurance
If you're lucky enough to have insurance benefits, you'll need to wade through insurance paperwork. The forms can be confusing but the staff in Human Resources can give you a hand – it's their job to understand this stuff.

Your Paycheck
The best part of a new job — payday. It's great to start making money, but don't be surprised if your check has less money than you expected, since the salary you agreed to is pre-tax. The federal government withholds Social Security tax, Medicare tax and your federal taxes. State and local governments take out taxes as well. Your company may also take cash out for your health insurance and a 401(k) contribution. That doesn't mean you're being ripped off – it just means you should pay attention and expect a little skimming off the top.

By the time they hand you your paycheck, you've already paid taxes – just not all of them. Come spring, you'll probably find yourself parked at the kitchen table, poring over some pretty serious forms.

It starts in January, when you get your W-2 – a summary of everything your employer paid you during the past year. Hang on to this for when you file taxes in April. There are a few other tax items to consider. If you're going to itemize deductions like donations you've made or medical expenses you've paid, you'll need those receipts, as well.

If taxes seem confusing, hiring someone to help is another good option. The hundred bucks you spend today may seem like a lot, but it's money well spent if it helps you save even more on taxes.

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