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1. Gather your records now!  It is never too early to start getting together any documents or forms you will need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks, and other documents that support an item of income or a deduction you are taking on your return.  Employers have until January 31st to mail W-2 forms.  If you want to get your W-2 sooner than the deadline, please make sure to enroll in At Your Service Online (AYSO) for online access to your W-2.  You can access your W-2 online two weeks earlier than those who were unable to enroll for online access. 

2. Find your forms.  Whether you file a Form 1040 or Form 1040-EZ, you can download all IRS forms and publications at http://www.irs.gov/

3. Do a little research.  Check out Publication 17   on IRS.gov.  It is a comprehensive collection of information for taxpayers highlighting everything you will need to know when filing your   return.  Review Pub 17 to ensure you are taking all credits and deductions for which you are eligible.  Better yet, have a tax professional do the research for you.  The IRS website is user friendly, just type a topic and let the system do the search.

4. Think ahead to how you will file.  Will you prepare your return yourself or go to a preparer?  Do you qualify to file at no cost using Free File on IRS.gov?  Are you eligible for free help at an IRS office or volunteer site?  Will you purchase tax preparation software or file online?  There are many things to consider.  So, give yourself time to weigh them all and find the option that best suits your needs.

5. Take your time.  Rushing to get your return filed increases the chance you will make a mistake and not catch it.  It is better to do it right the first time than to amend your return.  Amending return is time consuming and can be difficult.

6. Double-check your return.  Mistakes will slow down the processing of your return.  In particular, make sure all the Social Security Numbers, names (only use legal names listed on your social security card), and math calculations are correct, as these are the most common errors made by taxpayers.   

7. Consider e-file.  When you file electronically, the computer will handle the math calculations for you, and you will get your refund in about half the time it takes when you file a paper return.  Check out IRS.gov.  You may be eligible to use their free E-file option or use other software listed on their website.

8. Think about Direct Deposit.  If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you will receive it faster than waiting for a check by mail.  Double check your routing number and account numbers to ensure that your refund goes to your bank account. 

9.  Relax.  There is no need to panic.  If you run into a problem, remember your can always call IRS at 800-829-1040 or try IRS.gov.  If your tax return is too complex, leave it to the professionals.  Please check the link on how to choose a tax professional.