The April 15 tax deadline is closing in and the exercise of filing your return can be stress-inducing even if you’ve done it for years. To ease your tension and lower your 2012 and 2013 taxes, try these five strategies:
Strategy No. 1: Get organized. Whether you’ll be completing your own return or hiring a pro, turn your mass (mess?) of financial records into a coherent arrangement that will let you see if you have every document you need.
Otherwise, you might fail to report to the Internal Revenue Service all the 2012 income, interest or dividends you earned. Then you could be hit with IRS penalties and interest or, worse, find yourself targeted for a tax audit.
So pull out a copy of your 2011 tax return and make a list of every income source you reported on it. Then, make sure you have all the documents — 1099s, W-2s, interest statements — that align with these sources for 2012.
If you made new investments last year or earned income from any new employers, be certain you have those records, too.
Create a desktop folder on your computer and fill it with all the tax statement PDFs you received online from your bank, broker and mutual funds.
To double check that you haven’t missed any 2012 expenses you can write off or income you need to include, you might want to consult an online tax checklist, such as the one on the H&R Block site. Or you could download a tax software program that'll ask you questions to jog your memory about things you purchased that could slim your tax bill.
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