January of each year starts a new tax filing season. For those looking to get a head start on preparing and filing your 2010 tax return, here are several tips to help make the process a little smoother.
Tip #1: Start gathering your tax-related documents:
* Employers and financial institutions will be sending out W-2 forms and 1099s in January. Be on the lookout for these documents in the mail. If you signed up for electronic delivery of your tax documents from your financial institutions, be sure to log in to download or print out those documents as they become available.
* In an effort to reduce costs and increase the use of e-filing, the IRS will no longer be automatically sending out paper tax form packages. Therefore, if you need paper forms or publications, free copies are available by:
- Going to the IRS web site at http://www.irs.gov;
- Visiting one of the 401 Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC) available across the country. You can find a listing of the TACs in your local area at http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/index.html;
- Visiting your local library or post office. Many local libraries and post offices offer free tax forms to taxpayers during tax season; and
- Calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). You can order forms to be mailed to you by calling this number.
Tip #2: Take advantage of the IRS’ Free File program:
The IRS and the Free File Alliance offer free tax preparation and e-filing for qualifying taxpayers. For more information about the program and to see if you qualify visit http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.html.
Tip #3: Consider using e-file and direct deposit:
E-filing is a convenient and quick way to submit your return to the IRS. If you are getting a tax refund, you can reduce the amount of time it takes to receive your refund if you e-file and use the direct deposit option. Even if you don’t e-file, you may still be able to use direct deposit if you are receiving a refund.
Tip #4: Give yourself enough time to weigh the different filing options available to you.
For most taxpayers the methods available for preparing your return usually boil down to preparing it yourself or paying a qualified tax preparer to prepare it for you. However, some taxpayers may be eligible to receive free face-to-face help from the IRS. Contact the IRS at one of their Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC) to see if free face-to-face assistance is available. You can find a listing of the TACs in your local area at http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/index.html.
Tip #5: Give yourself enough time to review your return before filing it.
Many IRS questions or delays in processing your return can be avoided by reviewing your return for common mistakes such as mathematical errors and transposition errors. Also, be sure to double check that the social security numbers are correct for the taxpayers listed on the return.
Tip #6: Utilize the resources available to you from the IRS by:
- Visiting the IRS web site often (http://www.irs.gov). In addition to the forms and publications available on the IRS web site, the IRS web site contains answers to many questions related to preparing and filing you tax return, tax tips, and updates on tax law changes.
- Reviewing IRS Publication 17 “Your Federal Income Tax” (available from the IRS at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p17.pdf). Publication 17 offers a wealth of useful information for filing your individual tax return.
- Contact the IRS if you have questions or need assistance. The IRS offers taxpayer assistance on many common issues related to preparing and filing your return, receiving refunds, making payments, and following up on tax issues. Be sure to take advantage of these services if you have any questions. The IRS can be contacted through their web site at http://www.irs.gov or by calling 800-829-1040.