If you’re one of the many Americans who dreads the approach of April 15, don’t despair. The stress that’s often associated with tax season usually stems from disorganization. With the right planning, however, you can approach filing your taxes with a sense of order and control, which will result in accomplishing the task and receiving your refund check even sooner.
This year’s official tax due date is Tuesday, April 17, so there’s still plenty of time to collect and prepare the necessary documentation—usually the most time-consuming and overwhelming part of the filing process. Here are a few suggestions to help move things along and reduce stress:
- Get organized. Employers, banks and other institutions must send all tax documents by the end of January, so a checklist of documentation needed can help. Check off items as they arrive to easily determine which ones are still needed prior to starting the filing process.
- e-File. According to USA.gov, over 100 million people will electronically file their tax return this year. Tax software from companies such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block not only have easy-to-use e-file features, but also offer a number of additional benefits, including faster tax submissions and returns, increased accuracy, and greater security.
- Look for discounts. Taxpayers can save time and money by finding online offers and discounts on sites like DealTaker.com and Coupon Sherpa to purchase tax software programs, tax-related services, and office supplies.
- Access tax resources. Not everyone can e-file, so individuals need to know where to find all the necessary paperwork for a mailed return. Since the IRS no longer mails tax forms, taxpayers can visit www.irs.gov to download tax forms or visit a local library for printed copies.
- Ask questions. Some of the major tax companies offer free tax advice or access to professionals who can answer a variety of tax-related questions. Taxpayers should take advantage of these services to avoid paying more or filing incorrectly.
- Think ahead. Since tax filing is a yearly event, a little pre-planning for next year will go a long way toward reducing the stress and time associated with tax preparation. Visit office supply stores such as Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot to stock up on file folders, envelopes, shredders, and more to help organize receipts and other paperwork for 2012. Also consider using a finance management software such as Mint.com and Quicken to track income and expenses over the coming year.