The Best Tax Tips This Season

1. Gather your records in advance. It's never too early to start getting together any documents or forms you'll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks, and other documents that support an item of income or a deduction you're taking on your return. Be on the lookout for W-2s and 1099s, coming soon from your employer or financial institutions.

2. Find your forms. Whether you file a 1040 or 1040-EZ, you can download all Internal Revenue Service forms and publications from the www.IRS.gov Web site or request them by calling the IRS toll-free at (800) TAX-FORM (829-3676).

3. Do a little research. Check out IRS Publication 17 on www.IRS.gov. It's a comprehensive collection of information for taxpayers highlighting everything you'll need to know when filing your return. Review Publication 17 to ensure you're taking all credits and deductions for which you're eligible. Publication 17 can be requested by calling the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-3676.

4. Think ahead to how you'll file. Will you prepare your return yourself or go to a preparer? Do you qualify to file at no cost using Free File only available at www.IRS.gov.?

5. Take your time. Rushing to get your return filed increases the chance you will make a mistake and not catch it. Make sure not to miss out on any tax deductions, credits and benefits.

6. Double-check your return. Mistakes will slow down the processing of your return. In particular, make sure all the Social Security numbers 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. More than 2.5 million New Jerseyans e-filed their tax returns with the IRS last year.

8. Think about direct deposit. If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you'll receive it faster than waiting for a check by mail.

9. Visit www.IRS.gov often. The official IRS Web site is a great place to find everything you'll need to file your tax return: tax forms, tax tips, frequently asked questions and updates on tax law changes. Check out the "1040 Central" feature at www.IRS.gov during the filing season.

10. Relax. There's no need to panic. If you run into a problem, remember the IRS is there to help. Try www.IRS.gov or call the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040.

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