The IRS published its Top 10 Tax Time Tips on its website for the 2011 filing season. The text is from the IRS website; the notes are by Yechiel Robinson.
IRS TAX TIP 2011-01, January 03, 2011
It’s that time of the year again. The income tax filing season has begun and important tax documents should be arriving in the mail. Even though your return is not due until April, getting an early start will make filing easier. Here are the Internal Revenue Service’s top 10 tips that will help your tax filing process run smoother than ever this year.
- Start gathering your records Round up any documents or forms you’ll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you’re claiming on your return.
- Be on the lookout W-2s and 1099s will be coming soon; you’ll need these to file your tax return.
- Use Free File Let Free File do the hard work for you with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It’s available exclusively at http://www.irs.gov. Everyone can find an option to prepare their tax return and e-file it for free. If you made $58,000 or less, you qualify for free tax software that is offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there’s Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit http://www.irs.gov/freefile to review your options.
- Try IRS e-file After 21 years, IRS e-file has become the safe, easy and most common way to file a tax return. Last year, 70 percent of taxpayers – 99 million people – used IRS e-file. Starting in 2011, many tax preparers will be required to use e-file and will explain your filing options to you. This is your chance to give it a try. IRS e-file is approaching 1 billion returns processed safely and securely. If you owe taxes, you have payment options to file immediately and pay by the tax deadline. Best of all, combine e-file with direct deposit and you get your refund in as few as 10 days. (NOTE 4.)
- Consider other filing options There are many different options for filing your tax return. You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax preparer. You may be eligible for free face-to-face help at an IRS office or volunteer site. Give yourself time to weigh all the different options and find the one that best suits your needs. (NOTE 5.)
- Consider Direct Deposit If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you’ll receive it faster than waiting for a paper check. (NOTE 6.)
- Visit the IRS website again and again The official IRS website is a great place to find everything you’ll need to file your tax return: forms, publications, tips, answers to frequently asked questions and updates on tax law changes.
- Remember this number: 17 Check out IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax on the IRS website. It’s a comprehensive collection of information for taxpayers highlighting everything you’ll need to know when filing your return.
- Review! Review! Review! Don’t rush. We all make mistakes when we rush. Mistakes will slow down the processing of your return. Be sure to double-check all the Social Security Numbers and math calculations on your return as these are the most common errors made by taxpayers. (NOTE 9.)
- Don’t panic! If you run into a problem, remember the IRS is here to help. Try http://www.irs.gov or call toll-free at 800-829-1040.
4. Electronic filing of tax returns, aside from being more convenient for taxpayers, is also more efficient for the IRS. The cost of processing a single paper-filed tax return is $2.87, compared to $0.35 for an e-filed return, according to a 2009 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, as cited here. In an effort to reduce its costs, the IRS will now require paid tax return preparers to e-file if they prepare at least 100 tax returns in 2011, or 10 tax returns in 2012 or later.
5. See the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Volunteers operate VITA sites during tax filing season in all 50 U.S. states.
6. Direct deposit avoids the possibility that a tax refund check will be misplaced or undelivered. See: “IRS Seeks to Return $164.6 Million in Undelivered Checks to Taxpayers; Recommends E-file and Direct Deposit to Eliminate Future Delivery Problems.” IR-2010-113, November 17, 2010.
9. If you discover that you made a mistake after you filed a return, you should file an amended return. For example, if you made a mistake in Form 1040, you should file Form 1040X.
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