Tax time is almost here, and this time of year can be stressful. Whether you are dreaming of a big refund or dreading writing that check to the IRS, a little preparation can go a long way. Nothing can take the pain out of doing your taxes, but there are some things you can do to make the process easier. Here is your five step guide to a nearly painless tax filing season.
Step #1 – Make a List of the Documents You Will Need
If you file before receiving all your documents, you will need to file an emended return later on, a tedious, time consuming and unnecessary step. Before you even begin, make a list of the documents you will need. Many tax preparation programs allow you to import documents directly to your return, so once the information is available, entering it should be a snap. Just remember to check your list, and check off each document as it becomes available. Be sure to keep physical or electronic copies of all your documents.
Step #2 – Decide on DIY or Professional Assistance
Tax preparation software makes filing your return easier than ever, but the DIY approach is not always the best choice. Think about the complexity of your return, including things like business income, capital gains and losses and other factors that could make DIY filing less practical. If you do plan to get professional help with your return, call around for pricing and interview each potential filing partner carefully. Not all tax preparers will have the expertise needed to deal with a complex return or unusual tax filing situations.
Step #3 – Double (and Triple) Check Your Personal Information
Whether you choose the DIY approach or hire a pro to do your taxes for you, there is a lot of hard work involved. The last thing you want is for a simple mistake, like a transposed Social Security number of mistyped address, to sabotage your tax filing efforts. Take the time to double (and triple) check your personal information after you enter it, and again before you file your return.
You can never be too careful where your tax return is concerned. If you are using the same tax prep software as last year, make sure your personal information is recorded correctly. If you are switching software, double check the import of last year’s tax return.
Step #4 – E-File if You Can
When it comes time to file your return, how you do it can make a huge difference. Filing a paper return can slow things down considerably, delaying your refund and causing undue issues with the processing of your return. If you can, e-filing is definitely the way to go. Filing your return electronically greatly reduces processing times and get you your refund as quickly as possible.
If you are filing your own return, be sure to check and make sure the documents have been accepted by the IRS. When using tax preparation software or an online program, you should receive notifications when your return has been e-filed, and when it has been accepted by the tax agency.
Step #5 – Track Your Refund
If you are expecting a tax refund, you can check its status online. Just go to the IRS website to track the processing of your return and see when you can expect your refund.
If you have chosen direct deposit for your tax refund, double check with your bank to make sure the funds have been received. Once your refund is in the bank, you can kiss another tax filing season goodbye and move on to more pleasant tasks.
Tax filing season will always be a stressful time of year, but there are things you can do to make it easier. The steps listed above can help you take at least some of the pain out of filing your tax return this year.