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Tips For Preparing Your Tax Return

I’ve been asked repeatedly to offer some advice to those of you who prepare your own tax returns.  Here are some excerpts from an article I did over 4 years ago.  Enjoy!


When you embark on the adventure of self-preparing your own tax return, here are some “Tips” to help guide you.


First Tip:  Start early, don’t wait until April 10th to begin.  Being in a rush, usually is the single most contributor to avoiding problems with the Second Tip.


Second Tip:  Be aware of decisions you need to make regarding your filing status (Head of Household is a biggy for many folks that can be easily missed), tax credits (such as child tax credit, credit for childcare, higher education credit, energy credit, and earned income credit).  Just Google each topic and you will find plenty of articles and helpful information.  You can also go directly to the IRS.Gov website, and search for the topics there.  (Beware, the IRS has a way of wording explanations that have been known to send a sane person screaming off into the desert.)


Third Tip:  Make sure you have the right tax forms.  Once again, the best source is to go to the website, IRS.GOV, and search, then print out the forms.  There is almost always a set of instructions that you can download and read as well.  (Here’s a free extra tip.  If you are having trouble sleeping at night, get up, start reading one of the IRS instruction publications, I guarantee you will be falling asleep before you get to page 2.)


Fourth Tip:  Math check your return if you’re paper filing.  (If you are attempting to use a software program, usually they will eliminate this problem, but still do some basic checking to make sure the right numbers were input, etc.)


Fifth Tip:  Put your checking account information at the bottom of page 2 so you can get your refund MUCH faster.  (Paper check refunds take up to 6 weeks, direct deposit refunds have been going in about 1-2 weeks after the IRS receives your return.)


Sixth Tip:  Make a copy of the return you are filing for your records.  You might need it for applying for a loan, etc.  (You would be amazed at how many folks are so happy to drop the return in the mail box that they forget to make a copy for themselves.)  Also, make sure you sign and date the copy you are sending to the IRS.


Of course, when you get too bogged down and decide to hire a professional preparer, keep in mind that there is nothing to be ashamed of to just pay somebody to do it for you.


Did you hear?  Prov 24:27 says, “Prepare your work outside, and get your fields ready.  Afterwards, build your house.”

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