April 15th is just a few hours away, and millions of Americans are rushing to get their tax returns filed on or before this Thursday. To help any of my readers who are trying to beat the deadline, I have put together this list of tips to get your tax returns prepared on time.
1. Use your Tax Return from Last Year as a Guide
Before you start working on your new tax return you should go and find your tax return from last year. Unless your financial situation has changed drastically over the past year you should be able to use your old return as a guide for completing your new return.
2. To Itemize or Not?
Itemizing your return opens up the door for dozens of tax deductions, although taking the standard deduction is easier, itemizing your deductions may be more tax beneficial to you. If you do not know if you would benefit from itemizing or the standard deduction then you might want to speak with a qualified tax professional.
3. Consider an IRA to Lower your Liability
If you are looking for a last minute way to lower your adjusted gross income from last year, then you should consider making a contribution to a traditional IRA. As this article on the RDTC Tax Help Blog explains you can make retroactive contributions to an IRA up until the tax deadline to lower your taxable income for 2009.
4. Making Work Pay Credit
This year there is a new $400 Making Work Pay Credit for most taxpayers who worked during the last year. You will need to complete Schedule M to calculate the value of your credit. For more information checkout this IRS press release from earlier today.
5. Be Honest and Review Everything Twice
One of the most important rules of preparing a tax return 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. You should also give yourself time to thoroughly review your return for errors before filing.
6. E-Filing your Return
You should always try to e-file your tax return, unless you have a legitimate reason not to. E-filing is fast, and can get your return to the IRS in a few minutes. Plus, you can avoid both the drive to the post office and having to pay for shipping.
7. Direct Deposit / Splitting your Refund
When you file your return, even if you do not e-file, you can select to have your tax refund directly deposited into your bank account. You can even have the refund split between multiple different accounts.
8. Consider an Automatic Extension
If you are not quite ready to file – for any reason – you should file for an automatic extension from the IRS. 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. Get Professional Help
If you are confused, or worried about getting your return completed by the deadline then you might want to enlist 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. Even if you do file an extension, you should make an appointment to get your return completed shortly after the tax deadline as many tax preparation offices close during the off-season.