4 Steps For Effective Tax Preparation

4 Steps For Effective Tax Preparation
  • Opening Intro -

    Over the past few weeks, we've been discussing tax preparation from time to time here on SayEducate.com.

    That's important because if you find yourself still needing certain forms in early February, you will need to do some follow up work.

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Do it NOW because putting it off may only result in you forgetting about it and scrambling at the last minute to assemble everything under pressure — who needs that?!

The Illinois CPA Society is advising taxpayers to go through their tax stuff right now to find out where they stand, offering the following four steps for effective tax preparation:

1. Get organized. Start by pulling together all your paperwork — items like your 2009 return, W-2 forms, interest income statements, documentation for charitable donations, and if you itemize deductions, receipts sorted by type and date.

2. Review documents, correct as needed. Don’t assume important items like 1099 forms or W-2s are correct — check your address, your Social Security number and other details. These forms should have been mailed to you by January 31st, so follow up if any are missing or incorrect. However, investment houses have until February 15th to provide 1099s.

3. Look for possible deductions and credits. The IRS website at www.irs.gov is a great resource for details on current tax credits and deductions. IRS Publication 17 summarizes 2010 changes and offers guidance on which forms to use and how to file. There’s even a section on “The ‘What ifs’ of an Economic Downturn” that addresses situations like job loss and foreclosure.

4. Double-check your work. Once you start preparing your return, don’t make obvious mistakes or forget to include anything. Check your math; double check your Social Security number, your spouse’s Social Security number, your income and any other numbers or details. If you were married or divorced during the year, don’t forget to indicate a status change. Make sure you understand how your tax preparation software works; don’t gloss over question prompts or you may lose some nice deductions if you don’t read about them.

And now for a bonus tip: if you are planning to have someone else prepare your taxes, arrange an appointment today. You can schedule it for March or April, but if you wait too late, your tax preparer or accountant may not be able to see you soon enough to beat this year’s April 18 deadline.

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Categories: Tax Tips