2011 is here and it's time for filing 2010 income taxes. Important tax documents are being produced and will arrive in the mail soon. The IRS recommends getting an early start on preparing your return, even though tax returns are not due until April. The following tips will help:
1. Use the IRS website: The website, irs.gov, has forms, answers to questions, publications, tips like these, and up-to-date changes to tax laws.
2. Get records together now: Find the documents and forms you will need to file your return. Receipts and other documents that verify income or deductions may take longer to locate or acquire than you think. You won't regret having them ready "too early."
3. Watch for W-2s and 1099s: You're going to need them, and if you misplace them in your mail, at the very least you will have delays while you get new copies.
4. Use the e-file: Electronic tax filing has been available now for twenty-one years. It is easy, safe and very fast. Nearly a hundred million taxpayers used e-file last year. The IRS has processed nearly a billion returns via e-file, and done so safely and securely. This year, many tax preparers will be required to use e-file. If you owe taxes, you can file now and pay later - any time before the tax deadline. The IRS says if you use e-file and direct deposit (see below), you can get your tax refund in as little as ten days.
5. Try Free File: Taxpayers who made less than $58,001 can use free tax software to prepare their return at irs.gov. Taxpayers who made more than that and are planning to prepare their own returns can use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms, also available at irs.gov.
6. Use Direct Deposit: All refunds that are deposited directly into a bank account are received much earlier than refunds sent by check.
7. Think about your filing options: You can prepare your own return or use a tax preparer. You can also get free advice from the IRS. Consider the complexities that may be involved, and your own knowledge of tax law, when weighing the options.
8. Review your return carefully: This is too important to undertake hastily. If you rush, you are bound to make mistakes. The most common errors are math calculations and incorrect Social Security Numbers.
9. Publication 17: IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, has everything you need to know about filing your income tax return. (At least that's what the IRS claims.) It is available at irs.gov.
10. You can get help: The IRS may be able to answer your questions. If not, you can always get in touch with an experienced Orange County tax attorney.
Source: IRS.gov "Top 10 Tax Time Tips" 1/3/2011