Getting Started With Your State Income Taxes

Whether you e-File or file by paper, planning ahead will help you avoid problems and delays with your income taxes.

First: View the Individual Income Filing Requirements to determine if you should file a North Carolina individual income tax return.

Second: determine your federal adjusted gross income, which is the starting point for your State individual income tax return. You determine that figure by completing a federal income tax return. Visit the Internal Revenue Service webpage to help you get started with your federal return.

Once you have determined that you should file, review these tips to give you a head start on your State income taxes:

  1. Review What’s New for Tax Year 2020.
  2. Review the instructions on how to file your State taxes.
  3. Gather your records in advance. Make sure you have all the records you need, including wage and tax statements (Form W-2) from employers, retirement distribution statements (Form 1099-R) from pension payers, and interest and dividend statements from financial institutions. Don’t forget to save copies for your files. Filing before you receive all your records could cause you to have to file an amended Form D-400.
  4. Get the right forms

Remember: Please don't file photocopies of tax forms. That could delay the processing of your return or cause errors that would require you to file an amended return.

Remember The Deadline!

If you file your return on a calendar basis, the 2020 return is due on or before April 15th, 2021.  A fiscal year return is due on the 15th day of the 4th month following the end of the taxable year.  When the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the return is due on or before the next business day.  A fiscal year return must be filed on a tax form for the year in which  the fiscal year begins.  For example, a 2020 tax form must be used for a fiscal year beginning in 2020.  (For more information on timely mailing North Carolina tax returns, see Directive TA-18-1.)

Free Tax Help Is Available

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) generally offers free tax help to people who make $56,000 or less. The IRS also offers tax help for seniors through its Tax Counseling for the Elderly program (TCE). There are VITA and TCE sites across the state where trained volunteers can answer your questions, file your taxes and help you take advantage of any tax credits for which you are eligible.

Please view the Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers page to learn more about VITA and TCE.

You can call 1-800-906-9887 to find the VITA or TCE site near you.

Tips For Preparing Your Taxes

When you are ready to fill out your tax forms, remember these tips:

  1. Take your time. Don’t rush when you’re filling out your forms; that’s how people make mistakes, particularly with their math.
  2. Do not mix different types of tax forms and schedules. Below is a chart explaining the different types of forms and schedules available. All forms and schedules submitted must be the same type; if not, your return can not be processed.

    Webfill Forms

    These forms are completed using a computer, and then printed.

    Handwritten (Web) Forms

    These forms are printed, and then filled out by hand.

    DOR Printed Forms

    These forms are ordered by mail and filled out by hand.

    Software Generated Forms

    These forms are created using filing software.


  3. Double-check your math and verify your individual information, including your address and all Social Security numbers. These are among the most common errors found on tax returns. Taking care will reduce your chance of hearing from the IRS or NCDOR and speed up your refunds.

  4. File electronically. E-filing is a quick, convenient and secure way to file both your federal and state taxes. Many North Carolina taxpayers will qualify for free or low-cost e-filing.

  5. Don’t panic! If you have a problem or a question, remember that both the IRS and NCDOR are available to help. Call the IRS customer service number at 1-800-829-1040 or the NCDOR taxpayer assistance number at 1-877-252-3052.