Ideally, we’d all keep perfect records all year long. By January 31, our tax documents would be in order, and we’d start working on taxes with weeks or months to spare.
However, in the real world, it doesn’t always work that way. We get busy, and the next thing we know, we’re staring at the filing deadline (April 18 for TY 2012).
But never fear! Here are five last-minute tips to help you beat the tax filing deadline.
Make a list of questions and information you’re looking for
By making a list, you’re less likely to forget something. If you have a simple return and don’t itemize your deductions, the list may only include your W-2 forms, interest income statements, and a few other items.
If you have a small business, you sold assets, or you itemize deductions, you’ll have more information to gather, such as receipts, Form 1099s, and financial statements.
Go through the step-by-step interview
When you’re in a hurry, it’s tempting to hop around in your tax preparation program and just enter the information you have on hand. That could be an expensive mistake.
By letting the step-by-step interview be your guide, you make sure you get all the deductions and credits to which you are entitled. Otherwise, it’s too easy to miss valuable tax breaks like energy credits or the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
Consider making a contribution to an IRA or other retirement plan
You can make IRA and certain other contributions for the previous year right up to the April 15 deadline. TaxACT can calculate your maximum allowable retirement plan contributions for you.
Review your return before e-filing your taxes
Always read through your return before e-filing. It’s the single best way to improve the accuracy of your return after it is prepared.
Avoid having your return rejected and refund delayed by double-checking the spelling of all names, Social Security numbers, and any bank account and routing numbers on your return. According to the IRS, these are some of the most common mistakes made on tax returns.
Reading your return also helps you understand your taxes so you can do better long-term tax planning.
It’s OK to file a tax extension
Now that you’ve put this much work into filing, perhaps you need one more receipt. Or you just feel rushed, and you’d like a little more time to review your return. You don’t need to explain.
Before you file for an extension, estimate your taxes in TaxAct. If you owe tax, you need to pay it with your extension by April 15 to avoid penalties and interest.
Even if you don’t owe anything, the more you do now, the easier it will be to finish your return before the October 15 extension filing deadline.
Was your tax return easier or harder to prepare this year than it was in previous years?