Early birds get tax refunds sooner; start preparing now

Mandy Wood, Icon Credit Union
It is that time again that we all should be thinking about taxes. Get ahead of the game by doing your taxes early and be one of the first to get your money back.

1. Gather all your info - you should have records of income and expenses for the year even if your filing system is a pile or drawer. Go through and categorize to see what you may be able to deduct or take advantage of. I put my annual expenses into an excel spreadsheet which also helps me categorize my expenses and realize where I might be able to save money in the year to come.

2. Watch for W-2 and 1099s - Employers, banks, and mortgage companies are required to have your forms mailed by Jan 31st so you should expect to see them no later than mid February. If you moved in the last year be sure to follow up to ensure the right companies have your correct mailing address and that is was correctly forwarded through the postal system.

3. Use free file or a hire a professional - Free File online fillable forms available at http://www.irs.gov. If you made $58,000 or less, you qualify for free tax software. If you made more or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile to review your options. I personally hire an accountant and find it the best use of my time and money all year. The right accountant should help you feel comfortable, understand the process and legally optimize your deductions. The right accountant will be a good member of your financial team for years to come.

4. Consider e-file and direct deposit. - These are both safe and fast ways to get your money directly to your Icon account. If you e-file and direct deposit you could have your money in 10 days.
What will you do with your tax refund?

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Published 2-4-2011