Ten ways to get prepared now for tax time, courtesy IRS

| 22 Feb 2012 | 07:50

    Taxpayers are encouraged to get a head start on preparing their taxes, especially since early filers avoid the last minute rush and get their refunds sooner. Here are 10 ways to get a jump on your taxes before the April 15 deadline is here, according to the IRS. Gather your records in advance. It’s never too early to start getting together any documents or forms you’ll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks, and other documents that support an item of income or a deduction you’re taking on your return. Also, be on the lookout for W-2s and 1099s, coming soon from your employer or financial institutions. Find your forms. Whether you file a 1040 or 1040-EZ, you can download all IRS forms and publications from the IRS.gov Web site or request them by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Do a little research. Check out IRS Publication 17 on IRS.gov. It’s a comprehensive collection of information for taxpayers highlighting everything you’ll need to know when filing your return. Review Publication 17 to ensure you’re taking all credits and deductions for which you’re eligible. Publication 17 can be requested by calling the IRS at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Think ahead to how you’ll file. Will you prepare your return yourself or go to a preparer? Do you qualify to file at no cost using “Free File” only available at the IRS.gov Web site? Are you eligible for free help at an IRS office or volunteer site through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program? Will you purchase tax preparation software or file online? Give yourself time to weigh them all and find the option that best suits your needs. Take your time. Rushing to get your return filed increase the chance you will make a mistake and not catch it. Take your time to ensure you do not miss out on any tax deductions, credits and benefits. Double-check your return. Mistakes will slow down the processing of your return. In particular, make sure all the Social Security numbers and math calculations are correct as these are the most common errors made by taxpayers. Taking care will reduce your chance of making an error. The error rate on paper filed returns is approximately 20 percent, one out of every five returns filed, compared to only about 1 percent with an e-filed tax return. Consider e-file. When you file electronically, the computer will handle the math calculations for you, and you will get your refund in about half the time it takes when you file a paper return. E-filing is available through the IRS.gov Web site. Taxpayers can also file for free and online at IRS.gov using the Free File Program. The Free File Program can be used by taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $56,000 or less. Think about direct deposit. If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you’ll receive it faster than waiting for a check by mail. You can expect to receive your refund in as little as 10 days by filing your tax return electronically along with requesting your refund via direct deposit. The official IRS Web site is a place to find everything you’ll need to file your tax return.: tax forms, tax tips, Frequently asked questions (FAQs) and updates on tax law changes. Check out the “1040 Central” feature at IRS.gov during the filing season. If you run into a problem, visit www.IRS.gov Web site or call 800-829-1040.