Prepare Your Tax Return With Less Stress

The tax filing season is now upon us (feel free to groan out loud). But the good news is that the filing deadline to submit your 2015 tax return is not April 15 as usual. Instead, because of Patriots Day on April 18, the deadline in Massachusetts (and Maine, too) will be Tuesday, April 19. And for the rest of the nation it will be April 18. That’s because Washington, D.C. will celebrate Emancipation Day on Friday April 15, thereby extending the deadline nationally by three days.

The later deadline is sure to make procrastinators happy. But if you’re not one to put things off, you may want to get started now on preparing your returns. As always, an excellent resource for tax preparation is the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS. The federal agency’s website, www.irs.govAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon! is loaded with information and guidance for tax preparers. A good place to start on the site is to click on the “Filing” tab to see what options are available.

According to the IRS, choosing to file your return electronically and to receive refunds by direct deposit are the fastest and safest ways to file an accurate tax return and receive a refund. This year, the agency expects more than nine out of 10 refunds will be issued in less than three weeks. In fact, the IRS reports, 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. This service has commercial partners of the IRS offering free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $62,000 or less.

Before you even get started on preparing your return, gather up all the documents you will need to fill out the return. This includes W2s, bank statements, mortgage interest statements, receipts, 1099 forms, etc. In case you’re not sure what’s needed, refer back to your return from last year to refresh your memory. Or make a checklist so you’re not scrambling to find what you’re looking for.

Here are some other tips to help make the process go more smoothly:

  • Always double-check your work, at the very least. This includes calculations and something as straightforward as the spelling of your name. Don’t take for granted that everything is entered correctly the first time around.
  • Research deductions and credits in advance of filling out the return. Changes in tax laws and regulations may impact both of these, so know what you’re eligible for before you get started. You might have to do a little legwork to claim a certain deduction or credit, so it’s better to know ahead of time.
  • If you know your return is going to be more complicated than usual this year and you don’t feel comfortable completing it, check into getting professional help. If you’re not sure who to choose, ask family, friends and neighbors if they have any recommendations.
  • Have a question? The IRS website has several ways to search for answers. They include the search box at the top of the home page; Interactive Tax Assistant, which can be accessed by clicking on “Find Answers to Your Tax Questions” under the Tools section near the top of the home page; and a new topic lookup tool called the IRS Tax Map, which can be accessed from the Interactive Tax Assistant home page.

Even though the filing deadline is extended for this year, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your return. If you feel rushed, you’re more likely to make mistakes. And you may not be able to get all the information you need to complete the return on time.



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