BOSTON (CBS) – The tax stuff has begun to arrive and for most of us it’s stacked on the kitchen counter.

Those unopened envelopes 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.

Check to be sure your W-2s have arrived and they are correct. Compare them with your last pay stub of 2012. (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. 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 well with Turbo Tax.

Now to collect those pesky tax forms. Head to the post office or your local library to get copies of the forms you need and the instruction books. 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 the instruction booklet for the standard 1040 is over 100 pages. Then 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 2012 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. They are looking to return tax refunds that were not delivered earlier this year because of mailing address errors. Don’t let that happen. Be sure your address is correct.


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