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How to Get Ready for Tax Season

How to Get Ready for Tax Season
As April approaches, it’s time to get ready for tax season. Here are five steps to be help make the process easier, whether you prepare your return yourself or use a tax preparer. 

Gather your paperwork
Having a file folder or box just for your tax-related paperwork is key to being organized. You’ll want to gather documents related to

●       Taxable income, such as W-2 and 1099 forms and any state tax refund, alimony, unemployment payments or interest paid to you

●       Deductions, including mortgage interest, state and local taxes, charitable donations, Individual Retirement Account (IRA) contributions, medical expenses and last year’s tax prep fee

●       Business expenses if you’re self-employed

●       Tax credits

●       Receipts for deductible expenses

You should also include printouts of your year-end pay stub, credit card summaries and statements from your banking institution, mutual funds and brokerage accounts.


Check the numbers
The IRS says wrong Social Security numbers, math errors and incorrect bank routing numbers are among the most common mistakes people make on their returns. Since the IRS uses Social Security numbers to track you, be sure yours is correct — as well as the numbers for your spouse and dependents. If you anticipate a refund and want the Treasury Department to deposit it directly into your checking or savings account, double check your bank’s or credit union’s routing number.

Use the latest tax-prep software
Even if you’re using a tax preparer, you might want to run the numbers yourself using tax preparation software. This time of year, many financial institutions, including Fitzsimons Credit Union in Colorado, offer discounts on copies of TurboTax. The current crop of tax-prep software will do the calculations for you, search for deductions and double check for errors. You may find the software is so easy to use that you can eliminate the need to pay a tax preparer.

Earn tax rewards for volunteering
In addition to the emotional benefits of volunteering your time for a good cause, Uncle Sam gives you a tax benefit. While you can’t deduct the value of your time spent working for a qualified tax-exempt organization, you can deduct 14 cents per mile for going to and from the volunteer site. You can also deduct unreimbursed expenses. For example, if you buy the ingredients for sandwiches to feed the homeless, you can deduct the cost of the groceries. And of course, you can deduct the fair-market value of donated goods.

Open or contribute to an IRA
The IRS allows you to open or contribute to an IRA for the taxable year up until the filing deadline of the current year. Just be sure to declare which tax year your contribution is for. Your IRA contributions will also reduce your tax bill. If you belong to a credit union, you can invest in an IRA there, where interest rates may be higher than those you’d find at a big bank or mutual fund company.

You might dread tax season, but it’s more bearable when you get organized and take advantage of all the tax breaks you can.


Ellen Cannon, NerdWallet

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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