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Tax Tips to Save You Time and Money
Author: Larry Denton
It's nearly that time again. April 15--the income tax deadline--is rapidly approaching. There aren't many taxpayers in this world who can honestly say that they have not needed help completing their tax forms. Since paying taxes is an annual event, you would think that we would get better at the procedure from year to year, but this is certainly not the case. We need help nearly every year because tax laws change dramatically, withholding tables are adjusted and our individual tax situation from deductions to dependents vary from year to year.
If you are like most people you haven't yet gathered all of your tax records, let alone filed your return. Before you get started, take some time to check on some deductions you might possibly qualify for, but are often overlooked. Points on home refinancing; health insurance premiums (including some long-term care premiums); non-cash charitable contributions (those summer clothes you gave to Goodwill); higher education expenses; work-related expenses (such as tools, labor union dues, and education costs to improve your skills); investment and tax preparation expense (deductions for safety deposit box rental and postage costs to send your return last year).
Once you have checked for deductions begin to gather and sort all of your tax related files, forms and documents. Income pay stubs, miscellaneous income records (Social Security, unemployment compensation, alimony), medical bills (remember there is a deduction for each mile driven for medical care), proof of contributions, investment records, and any other items dealing with your taxes. By using tax preparation software, you can probably finish your state and federal returns within a couple of hours. The software does the math, helps you find deductions and figures out the final amount due or a likely refund.
If you need tax assistance and would rather not pay for such services, do not overlook the following ways to obtain help from the IRS themselves: the Internet http://www.irs.gov; telephone hotlines (800-829-1040 for personal and 800-829-4933 for business); TaxFax Service at 703-368-9694; Walk-In Offices-- http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts for a complete list of IRS offices and hours of operation.
If you do not want to do your own taxes and choose to hire a tax preparer, it is a choice best not left until April. All tax preparers are not created equal. It stands to reason as with any other profession, some are better educated, better prepared, more enthusiastic and more accurate. Hiring a tax preparer doesn't mean you're excused from understanding your taxes. You have to know enough about taxes to be able to read your return so you know precisely what it is you are signing. You also need to know enough about taxes so that you can tell your preparer everything they need to know to file your return accurately and to your best advantage.
Procrastination is your worst enemy. If you wait until April 13th and then just "run out" and have your taxes done, who do you think you will get as a tax preparer? Not the best and the brightest. Do yourself (and your preparer) a favor--get your tax return done early. If you owe Uncle Sam you don't have to send it until April 15th, and if you are entitled to a refund you will have it in your hands so much faster. One final tip--remember to sign your return!
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