Six Simple Steps for Preparing Your Tax Return

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As Ben Franklin so wisely summarized, "Nothing is certain but death and taxes." While neither can be avoided, some simple, practical steps can minimize your tax burden and enhance your returns. Always remember, it is not how much money you make that is important, it is how much you are able to keep. By being aware of the tax rules and regulations, the ever-changing tax laws, and keeping abreast of the new tax preparation software that is currently available, you can save more of your hard earned dollars. Whether you are a first time, online or last-minute filer, you can find reliable and current tax information quickly and efficiently at

Income taxes have made liars out of more Americans than golf.

The famed cowboy humorist Will Rogers once remarked, "Income taxes have made liars out of more Americans than golf." Whether taxpayers have used "creative accounting" to intentionally avoid some tax responsibility or the IRS forms and instructions are so radically complex and difficult that honest mistakes are bound to happen is difficult to judge. You can, however, avoid unnecessary and sometimes costly mistakes, and pay only that amount for which you are legally responsible by obtaining reliable tax information. Designed exclusively to provide valuable, money-saving information, advice and resources about all types of taxes, provides the tips and cautions that can help you file your tax return more easily and confidently.

Even if you're an honest, well-intentioned, and law-abiding taxpayer, chances are you don't completely understand our tax system or feel confident about it. Don't feel dumb when it comes to understanding the American tax system. You are not the problem--the immense tax code and the complexity of our jumbled tax system is at fault. There are some things you can do, however, to make filing your return a little easier.

The first big step in preparing your return is to get all of your records together dealing with income and expenses. In other words, get organized. The days are long gone when taxpayers could simply store their most valuable tax records in shoe boxes and shopping bags to be hauled to some tax preparation firm on April 12th. Don't wait until the last minute to begin your organization of records, and try to stay organized throughout the entire tax year, not just April.

Secondly, determine and obtain the forms and schedules you will need. In most cases, the IRS will mail you the same form which you filled out last year--whether that be 1040EZ, 1040A or the 1040. Before filling out the form, carefully read the instructions to see if you need or would benefit from filing a different form this year. Also determine if you need additional forms, schedules or publications to prepare your upcoming return.

Thirdly, you begin to fill in your return. Following the instructions provided may not be as easy at it first sounds, but simple is not in the IRS's vocabulary. For example: choosing your filing status. Are you single, married filing jointly, married filing a single return, qualifying widow(er), or head of the household? There are advantages and disadvantages of each so be quite careful in making your selection. Next you must identify your number of qualified exemptions. This again can get tricky, so search online to get answers or get professional help. Add all your income, subtract all of your legal deductions and exemptions and go from there.

Next, check your return thoroughly for mathematical errors and to make sure you used the correct tax schedules.

Fifth, Sign and date your return. If it is joint return, your spouse must also sign and date it.

Finally, attach all required forms and schedules--especially all W-2's and 1099's. If, after completion of the return you still feel uncomfortable, take your return to a professional tax preparation expert for confirmation, suggestions or advice.

If you would like additional free information concerning your tax questions or problems, in addition to access to all of your tax forms, tax schedules and publications, please visit


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