Have you filed your taxes yet? The clock is ticking and many of us are still trying to get ready for Tax Season? Here are some tips from the IRS that might help make it a little less painful:
1) Choose the Tax Form that Best Fits Your Needs
To file your 2009 individual tax return, you'll have to decide which form to use...unless you e-file. Whether you use e-file or prepare on paper, using the simplest form will help avoid costly errors or processing delays. And remember, if you file electronically, it speeds up the processing of your tax return and the delivery of your refund.
Here are things to consider when deciding which IRS form to file.
Use the 1040EZ if:
Your taxable income is below $100,000
Your filing status is Single or Married Filing Jointly
You and your spouse - if married -- are under age 65 and not blind
You are not claiming any dependents
Your interest income is$1,500 or less
You are not claiming the additional standard deduction for real estate taxes, taxes on the purchase of a new motor vehicle, or disaster losses
Use the 1040A if:
Your taxable income is below $100,000
You have capital gain distributions
You claim certain tax credits
You claim deductions for IRA contributions, student loan interest, educator expenses or higher education tuition and fees
If you cannot use the 1040EZ or the 1040A, you'll probably need to file using the 1040.
You must use the 1040 if:
Your taxable income is $100,000 or more
You claim itemized deductions
You are reporting self-employment income
You are reporting income from sale of property
All IRS forms, instructions and information about e-file can be found on IRS.gov.
2) Filing Status
Everyone who files a federal tax return must determine which filing status applies to them. It's important you choose your correct filing status as it determines your standard deduction, the amount of tax you owe and ultimately, any refund owed to you. Consider the following:
Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your marital status for the entire year.
If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.
Single filing status generally applies to anyone who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to state law.
A married couple may file a joint return together. The couple's filing status would be Married Filing Jointly.
If your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry during 2009, you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year of death, provided the joint return election is not revoked by a personal representative for the deceased spouse.
A married couple may elect to file their returns separately. Each person's filing status would generally be Married Filing Separately.
Head of Household generally applies to taxpayers who are unmarried. You must also have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for you and a qualifying person to qualify for this filing status.
You may be able to choose Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child as your filing status if your spouse died during 2007 or 2008, you have a dependent child and you meet certain other conditions.
There's much more information about determining your filing status in Publication 501, available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
3) Tips to Help You Choose a Tax Preparer
The IRS urges people to use care and caution when choosing a tax preparer. Remember, you are legally responsible for what's on your tax return even if it was prepared by an another individual or firm. Most tax return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients. However, unscrupulous tax return preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients. Therefore, it's important to find a qualified tax professional.
The following tips will help you choose a preparer who will offer the best service for your tax preparation needs.
Check the person's qualifications Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.
Check on the preparer's history Check to see if the preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state's board of accountancy for CPAs or the state's bar association for attorneys.
Find out about their service fees. Avoid preparers that base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
Make sure the tax preparer is accessible Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after April 15, in case questions arise.
Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return Most reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
Never sign a blank return Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
Review the entire return before signing it Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
Make sure the preparer signs the form A paid preparer must sign the return as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.