The IRS has finally updated and battle tested its system for this years barrage of tax returns. But are you ready? If not, this simple checklist is a great way to get started early. While you wait for 1099s and W-2s to show up, here are a few last minute tax return reminders and tips to help get your return done right, on time, for less.
First Day You Can File
Most of you know the last day to file a tax return. But do you know the first day you can file?
The day tax season opens can change from year to year depending on whether there are any last minute changes to the tax code. This year, the IRS had to push the start date back about a week. The first day you can file your tax return is January 31.
That doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to get started. You can even finish early. All the major tax software will hold your finished tax return and file it for you once tax season starts.
Check Your Personal Info
The most common mistake most filers make is putting the wrong information on their tax return. It gets worse if you’re expecting a tax refund. Direct deposit is fast, but it’s useless with the wrong bank account and routing numbers.
Take an extra couple seconds to look over all your information – your address, Social Security number, bank info, and marital status before you eFile.
Don’t forget to double check your filing status too. The IRS gives you several options to choose from: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow or widower with dependent child.
You may qualify for more than one status option. Your standard deduction, income tax brackets, and tax bill are dependent on your choice. So choose wisely.
By the way, if you got married on December 31 (or any earlier date), you’re considered married for the entire year.
If you followed in the footsteps of Meta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) or Chad Ochochinco (formerly Chad Johnson) this is important. Or maybe you just got married or divorced and changed your name.
Your new name must be on file at the Social Security Administration before you can use it on your tax return, otherwise the IRS will flag your return with an error. And you don’t want that.
You’ll need to file an SS-5 Form with Social Security first. Here is an easy name change guide to follow. Once the change goes through you can file your tax return.
Make That Last IRA Contribution
The IRS gives everyone the opportunity to back date IRA deposits thanks to the delayed contribution deadline. If you’re not sure how, it’s really easy.
You can open a new IRA or use an existing one if you already have it. Head to the deposit page. Choose the transaction type. Set the transaction date to sometime before the deadline expires, and mark the deposit for the 2013 tax year.
Early Bird Tax Prep Discounts
Every year the tax software companies offer discounted prices at the beginning of tax season. It’s a nice way to get your taxes done early and save some money in the process. If you use online tax software, here are two recommendations, the discounts, and when it expires:
TurboTax – get up to $20 off the price. Discount end 3/22/2014. That date isn’t set in stone either. You should file before then to take advantage of the discount. Read the review to learn about TurboTax.
H&R Block – get 15% off the price. There is the added small print disclaimer – prices are subject to change without notice. So don’t expect the discount to last forever. Read the review to learn more about H&R Block.
Putting off your return till the last minute will cost you. The cost of tax preparation goes up in late March. That includes what an accountant will charge. Take advantage of the early bird discounts before time runs out!