Monday, March 30, 2009

Top 10 Last Minute Tax Tips

The April 15th tax deadline is just around the corner, and with everything else going on in the country right now there are millions of taxpayers that still need to prepare and file their income tax returns. To help those of you who are rushing around to finish before the tax deadline, I have compiled the following list of the top 10 last minute tax tips.

1. Make sure it is all there

Be sure you have attached all W-2’s and all necessary documents to your return, and have completed them correctly. Your social security is the most important identifying number, so check and double check that it is correct on all documents. It is also a good idea to put your social security number on the top of every form.

2. Check the IRS’ website

New deductions and credits are created every year, for your benefit. While we all like to think our tax preparers know everything, it never hurts to double check their work. The IRS updates their website frequently with all new tax laws, credits, and deductions.

3. E-File

If you are running short on time and cash, you can e-file (electronically file) your taxes on your own online. All the information you need is on the IRS website, and there are multiple help lines you can call for assistance. However, the sooner the better, as the IRS gets very busy this close to the tax deadline.

4. Be honest

The most important rule of filing your taxes is to always be honest. The repercussions you may receive for lying to get a deduction you do not qualify for could be a lot more than you would have saved. Check over your return one last time before sending it off to make sure you only claimed deductions and credits you qualify for.

5. Joint or separate

If you are married, take the time to see if filing joint will benefit you or not. Changing tax laws and situations may change which works best for you, so do not just assume you should choose the same thing you did last year. Also be sure to keep your spouse informed about potential changes. If you choose joint and they choose separate, or your info does not match, you may have an audit coming your way.

6. Make copies of everything

Before you mail in that return, be sure you have a copy of every single document and page you are sending. If you want to be extra safe then you might even ask the post office to give or send you a receipt so you have proof of post-mark. This will be your proof of filing if the IRS sends you an audit, or missing document letter, in the mail.

7. Use IRS mailing materials

The IRS sends you your own mailing materials for a reason – it makes the process easier for them. If you fail to use their documents to mail your return, you could be running the risk of receiving a later return. If details on the mailing materials are inaccurate, the IRS prefers you make changes right on the labels, in pen.

8. Not ready? File an extension.

If you are not quite ready to file, for any reason, definitely file for an automatic extension. There are numerous reasons you may feel the need to file an extension, but any reason is better than not filing your return at all. However, if you are going to owe the IRS money then you still need to have your payment to them by the 15th.

9. Seek professional help

If you are new to filing your own taxes, or have recently changed filing status (i.e. newlywed, new business owner, new parent, etc.), then you may want to enlist some professional help. However, if you are going to get help from a tax preparer then you will want to make an appointment as soon as possible. The closer to tax day it gets, the busier the tax preparer’s office is going to be.

10. Check your math

Last but not least, always double check your math. It is much easier to make numerical errors than grammatical ones, so go over each and every number before you seal the envelope. It may seem like a hassle, but trust me it is much better to notice your own errors then to have an IRS auditor point them out.

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