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Post-Filing Tax Tips

Post Filing Tax Tips - TaxACT

Yay – you’ve filed your tax return! Now what?

Follow these tax tips:

Keep track of the status of your return

You are responsible for making sure your return is accepted if you file electronically. You can have TaxACT send you an email notification when this happens.

You can also check your e-file status any time at efstatus.taxact.com or on your mobile with the Tax Return Status by TaxACT app.

Note that e-file acceptance only means that the IRS acknowledges you have filed your return. It does not mean that the return is correct or that the IRS agrees with everything on it.

Where’s my refund?

To check the status of your refund, go to the IRS Where’s My Refund? website.

You’ll need to have your social security number or taxpayer identification number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your expected refund handy.

The IRS updates the website every day.

What to keep – and how long

Keep most tax records and receipts for at least three years. After that, your likelihood of needing every receipt, note, and informational form becomes much lower.

Before you run all your older documents through the shredder, however, make sure you save the following:

Documents and work papers related to anything that the IRS may deem fraudulent. While most returns can be considered safe after three years, the IRS can come back to look at fraudulent cases at any time.

Informational returns for income, such as Form 1099-MISC. Generally, the IRS has six years to notify you that you failed to report taxable income.

Receipts for assets you still own or are depreciating for tax purposes. This includes your home and any improvements to it, even if you probably won’t have to pay tax on gain on your home.

Employment tax records for the last four years.

Records for worthless securities or bad debts. Keep these records for seven years.

Make next year easier with better organization

Some of us promise every year, as we slog through piles or receipts and notes, that next year will be different.

Next April, we’ll be so organized that doing our taxes will consist of simply entering the totals into TaxACT and finishing the job early. So we hope.

Better organization doesn’t have to be a pipe dream, however, if you find ways to make it easy.

Here are some suggestions:

Keep better files as you go. Instead of stacking papers in one file, keep tax deductible receipts in at least one easy-to-find file. Keep your mileage log in the car and use it without fail. Or track mileage on your phone or computer.

Automate your financial life. Pay bills online, and then download your transactions to personal finance software.

Organize files online. You can scan receipts and upload other documents onto an online service so they’re right there when you need them. You’ll never have to sort boxes full of faded receipts at tax time again.

What if I need to change my return?

No matter how careful you are, sometimes you find information after you file your return. Perhaps you suddenly remembered a substantial noncash contribution, or you forgot to include unemployment benefits as income. Or your employer, financial institution, or a partnership sends you a corrected version of a form. What now?

Once you’ve filed a return, you can’t start over and file a new one.

Instead, you file Form 1040X to change items on the return. Page 1 of Form 1040X shows three columns for the major amounts from your tax return: Original amount or as previously adjusted; Net change – amount of increase or decrease; and Correct amount.

You must attach corrected schedules to Form 1040X as necessary.

Don’t hesitate to file a Form 1040X when something substantial changes on your return.

If you should have paid less tax than on your original return, it’s worth the trouble. If you owe; for example, if you found another Form 1099-INT from a bank, you’re better off fixing the error yourself than waiting for the IRS to send you a bill with penalties and interest.

To file Form 1040X in TaxACT, click Amend Federal Return under the main Filing tab.

When was the last time you sorted old tax files and threw out receipts and other papers you no longer need?

Photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

About Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and personal finance columnist and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills, Surviving a Financial Crisis (St. Martin's Griffin). She writes regularly at CreditCards.com, Bankrate.com, Interest.com, RedPlum, and MSN Money. She is an experienced speaker and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow Sally on Twitter.