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Tax Season: Getting Started

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Tax Preparers, Tax Prep

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420x316-grad-lee Dee Lee
Dee Lee is a Certified Financial Planner who received a diploma in...
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BOSTON (CBS) – For most people the tax information has begun piling up on the kitchen counter. Many financial institutions have asked for an extension so some of your 1099s may not have arrived yet. So often, there are corrections to the information and this saves on extra mailings as well as confusion as to which 1099 to use.

Those unopened envelopes though are going to need to be opened. If you don’t open them, you won’t know if you are missing any pertinent information. Look for 1099s from your mutual fund companies, banks, clients, and pension distributions and 1098s from your mortgage company.

If any of them are incorrect call immediately to straighten them out. The Payer has until the end of February to send their copies of the 1099 to the IRS so if you catch this early they can just send you a corrected a copy.

Check to be sure your W-2s have arrived and they are correct. Compare them with your last pay stub of 2011. (You did save your last pay stub didn’t you?) If your W-2 has not arrived, call your employer and ask that another be sent out. Be sure they have your correct address.

If you use check-writing software such as Quicken, gathering your tax information will be easy. If you have set it up properly, you can print out your tax reports such as the amount you paid in medical expenses, real estate taxes or contributions. This makes filing the long 1040 much easier and probably more accurate. Make sure you have any receipts you need to back up your deductions. Quicken also works very well with Turbo Tax.

Collect those tax forms that came in the mail or head to the post office or your local library to get copies of the forms you need and the instruction books as well. The instructions actually have an estimated time of completion printed on them so you can figure how long you will need to set aside for each of the forms you need to tackle.

You can download forms from the IRS, but be forewarned, the instruction booklet for the standard 1040 is 100 pages. It is actually smaller than last year by about 40%. And you will need to find all of the different forms and schedules that go with the 1040. To see all of the publications offered by the IRS check out their website.

If you are going to go it alone, request IRS publication 17. There are over 300 pages so you don’t want to be downloading it. Request the IRS send you a copy (800.829.3676). It’s a good read for it has everything you need to know about changes in the tax laws for 2011 that will affect your tax return. It’s easy but tedious reading.

You are going to need to organize this stuff whether you do the taxes yourself or hire someone else to do them for you. Even if you hire someone you should understand your taxes and review the information carefully before you sign that return.

One more thing:  The IRS still has tax refunds from last year. The Internal Revenue Service announced that it is looking to return $153.3 million in undelivered tax refund checks. In all, 99,123 taxpayers are due refund checks from last year that could not be delivered because of mailing address errors. Don’t let that happen. Be sure your address is correct.

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