BOSTON (CBS) – The tax stuff has been piling up on the kitchen counter for the past couple of weeks.

All of those unopened envelopes need to be opened and filed. 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 2010. (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 you are well on your way. 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 gathering the information if you file the long 1040 so 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 get done.

You can download forms from the IRS at, but be forewarned, the instruction booklet for the standard 1040 is 179 pages. 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 close to 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 2010 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 2009 sitting in big piles waiting for the rightful owners. They were returned from the post office as undeliverable. If you did not get your refund get on the IRS’ website and use the “Where’s my Refund?” link. These checks are worth $123 million.

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