Tax Preparation

Tips on filling out tax forms

Tax season often sneaks up and can leave you in a last-minute panic if you haven't properly prepared or properly maintained your files and records. Fortunately, with just a little effort you can pull your tax documents together and take the steps needed to file accurately and on time.

Do-it-Yourself Tax Filing

Tax filing from home is a growing trend, and can be a breeze with today's easy-to-use tax preparation software. These programs and their guides give you step-by-step instructions on where you need to plug in numbers from your documents and records, and then generate an approximation of your return. They may also provide helpful hints on various credits and deductions that might apply to you. They also help you submit your taxes online, which means you'll get your return sooner than through other methods.

If you're not interested in tax preparation software, you can still file your through the mail. Tax forms are available at most post offices and libraries, or you can find them online. This method of tax preparation is best suited for those who have a full understanding of the tax return process, and who also understand what they are entitled to in terms of credits and deductions.

Professional Tax Filing

If you choose to get tax help from a professional, the most important thing is to have all your documents together when you arrive. A tax professional won't know the details of your work history, income or situation unless you disclose it, so make sure you are completely open and honest with your agent. This helps ensure the accuracy of tax returns, which means no surprises for you or your tax preparer.

The best part of consulting a professional tax associate is that he or she will be able to make use of credits or deductions that you may not have known about. This can help you either minimize the amount you have to pay or leave with the prospect of a bigger tax return.

Tax Preparation Techniques

Whichever method you choose, there are a few tricks you can use throughout the year to help avoid tax-time panic:

  • Keep and organize receipts. Dedicate a file cabinet or folder to your receipts for that tax year and organize them by business, personal, medical or any other category that applies.
  • Shop around for tax professionals. Some tax preparers charge more than others, so looking around in advance can help you avoid paying for last-minute convenience.
  • Do your research. Find out about the different credits and deductions available for your situation, be it small business owner, person with a disability, homeowner who has made environmental improvements to your house, and many more. Being aware of what your situation brings to the table is helpful in filing your own taxes and can also help a tax professional get you the most out of your return.
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