It's the first of February and tax preparation season is in full swing. Mailboxes around the country are filling up with important documents needed to prepare and file income tax returns. Are you feeling overwhelmed with gathering and organizing your paperwork together to file your taxes?
The Internal Revenue Service provides the following and other useful tax prep guidelines and income/expense document information at www.irs.gov ...
Free Tax Preparation Tips
When it comes to tax preparation many people are far from efficient. In fact, most taxpayers are disorganized and unprepared when they begin to file their returns. Of course, you don’t have to make this mistake. The following 5 tax preparation tips can benefit you in a number of ways:
1. Get organized with the help of a checklist. If you use a tax preparation checklist, you’ll know for sure that you have all the right documents ready and that you won’t miss a single detail. A tax preparation checklist is the best way to stay organized because you can physically see what you have already done, as well as what needs to be completed in the future.
2. Get tax help if need be. You can find tax help in a couple of different ways. If you're looking for free tax help, the IRS offers 2 programs to eligible taxpayers: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). There are also numerous software programs to help you prepare and file your tax return. Many people use tax preparation software because it helps them stay organized, maximize tax deductions and tax credits, and file electronically. If you are looking for one-on-one tax preparation assistance, consider hiring a CPA or tax professional.
3. Triple-check your work. Do not be tempted to send off your tax return until you review it at least three times. This will help to ensure accuracy while allowing you to feel confident in the decisions that you’ve made. Make sure that all your personal information is correct, especially Social Security numbers. Any mistakes on your tax return will lead to slower IRS processing, which means a longer wait for your tax refund.
4. Tax preparation does not start the day that you want to file your tax return. If you want to be fully prepared, you need to think about your tax situation throughout the year. Those who wait until April to organize their finances are putting themselves in a vulnerable position. Even if the next deadline is months away, you should still do what you can to stay organized NOW to avoid potential problems in the future.
5. Give yourself enough time by knowing your deadlines. This goes along with tax preparation tip #4 above. If you know the deadlines that you must adhere to, it becomes much easier to be prepared for anything that comes your way. Some people only need to be aware of one deadline: April 15th. Others will need to remember several deadlines, such as those who owe local/state taxes and make quarterly estimated tax payments.
Almost everyone should be able to take advantage of these five tax preparation tips. Overall, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to successfully prepare and file your tax return. The closer you follow these tax preparation tips, the better chance you have of avoiding costly mistakes.
TAX PREPARATION CHECKLIST
Before you prepare your tax return you should have a tax preparation checklist to help you get organized. Along with this, your tax preparation checklist should also get you in the right frame of mind. Once you are organized and ready to move forward, you will find that everything begins to fall into place.
What is the overall goal of a tax preparation checklist? Simply put, it will help you get everything together before you begin to file your tax return or show up for your appointment with a tax professional. As you move down the checklist, you will find items you may have missed as well as things that were accounted for in the past. Listed below are some of the details that should be included on your tax preparation checklist.
Tax Prep Checklist for Personal Information — The IRS needs to know who is filing the tax return, as well as how many people are covered on it. To make this easy, they require:
Tax Prep Checklist for Income Information — The following documents will help you prepare all the income information that you need to file a federal tax return. Note that all these items may not apply to you:
Paper management is a very time consuming job! Get your organizational systems in place now and your taxes will be filed well before the April 15th deadline. Best wishes!
Donna LaRoche, M.Ed., Professional Organizer Serving Cape Cod, MetroWest and Eastern Massachusetts Contact: 617.640.2366, www.energizeandorganize.com
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