We are literally days away from the one day a year everyone walks around a little extra stressed and a little extra tired. You've been talking about it at your dinner tables and huddled at water coolers for weeks now. That's right, April 15th. What I have for you isn't anything new but it's just a few tips and thoughts I put together to help smooth that day along. They are also things that, if just remembered, can save you all kinds of headaches. And away we go!
1.) Sign and date your return! Sounds really easy and don't feel insulted if you think that's a real obvious one. The truth is every year I see loads of tax returns sent back to people not because there was anything wrong but because in the flurry and excitement to be done, they forgot to sign it.
2.) Direct Deposit. When using personal tax software choose direct deposit. This one is a no brainer if you can because you get to enjoy your return, if you are entitled to one, weeks ahead of the crowd that's waiting for it in the mail. I know I'm more of a money-in-my-hands now kind of guy.
3.) Single or Itemized?! Each situation is different but you want to make you chose the one that will expose you to the least amount of tax liability. Word of caution though: if you start itemizing make sure you have the evidence, real evidence. No one likes to get audited but if you skim through it just to save a few dollars in tax exposure its not worth the pain later. That shoe box full of receipts that you saved all year probably won't cut it either.
4.) Visit www.IRS.gov. Again sounds like a no brainer but you have to do it if you have questions. Avoid googling a question only to find an answer from a search engine optimized website that's wrong. That website that was not the IRS won't be there to back you up when you are confronted on your error. Plus the IRS website is really easy to use and definitely not as intimidating as you might perceive.
5.) Take advantage of education! Whether you are a college student, an adult taking a class or two after work, or still making your way through the awkwardness of high school there are deductions to be had. Again visit IRS.gov for the details but any money you put towards making yourself a better educated and better producing member of our society means that's money you can use to offset tax liability. So, don't overlook that class you took at the local learning annex last fall.
This was not meant to be the be all end all of tax help lists by any means. I just wanted to make sure you kept of few key points in mind when it comes time to sit down and jump into the belly of the beast that we call tax preparation. Please, please, please don't forget to sign your return. I can't stress that one enough. lastly if you're worried about paying a tax liability also visit the IRS website because avoiding tax filing is way worse than filing for extensions or working on some kind of payment deferment plan. I guess that last tip was my honorable mention addition to the list.
There are also some great books about taxes that you may be interested in checking out like Taxes Made Simple: Income Taxes Explained in 100 Pages or Less and for you electronic filers out there dont forget to update your TurboTax Premier Federal + State + Federal efile 2009 or H&R Block At Home 2009 Deluxe Federal + State + eFile [Formerly TaxCut].