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E-filing tips that should save time, if not money

If the trend in e-filing continues, the IRS expects more than 100 million individual taxpayers to file their tax returns electronically for the 2009 tax year.

More than one-third of those taxpayers will file by personal computer; the remainder will use a professional tax preparer or free file at an IRS site. No matter how you choose to e-file this year, following are some tips to make it as easy as possible.

Be prepared. Even though you won't be filing a paper return, you'll still need lots of documents to get you started. Make sure you have the following:
  • Identification information for yourself, your spouse, and dependents. This includes Social Security numbers, full names and ages.
  • Prior year's tax return.
  • Forms W-2 from all employers for yourself and your spouse.
  • Forms 1099 for Dividends, Interest or Investments.
  • Forms 1099 for Retirement or any Forms 1099 with Income Tax Withholding.
  • Medical Expense Documentation, including Prescription and Doctor's Receipts.
  • Charitable Deduction Receipts.
  • Forms 1098 for Student Loans, Mortgage and other Interest.
  • List of taxes paid in 2009, including State and Local Taxes and Real Estate Taxes.
  • Receipts for Other Expenses for Itemized Deductions (Schedule A).
  • Receipts and records for Business Expenses (Schedule C).
  • Records for other expenses, deductions and credits.
  • Settlement sheet for a new home (First Time Homebuyer's Credit).
  • Bank Account Information (for Direct Deposit or to pay electronically).
Choose a method of e-filing. You can:
  • Elect to file using tax software on your own computer with software that you download or purchase.
  • Hire a tax professional. For a list of authorized IRS e-file providers, check out the IRS Web site or search the Yellow Pages.
  • Use Free File if you make $56,000 or less a year. Check out the IRS web site to see if you qualify.
  • Walk in to a VITA center. VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally $49,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns: most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040.
Double check your return. If you elect to file using your own computer, run an error check for accuracy. Otherwise, ask your tax preparer to confirm that numbers and figures are entered correctly.

File with the click of a mouse.

Make a payment, if necessary. If you owe taxes, you can elect to pay electronically when you file or you may pay by mail. If you elect to pay by mail, be sure and print out a voucher and mail your payment in by the due date.

Check for your confirmation. When you e-file, you (or your tax preparer) should receive a confirmation of filing via email within 48 hours. If you don't receive a confirmation (or notice of confirmation from your tax preparer) within a few days, you may need to do some troubleshooting.

And just like that, you're done. No standing in line at the post office. No Googling to find the nearest post box with midnight delivery. No throwing pencils at the ceiling because you can't crunch the numbers. (But then, there's always next season.)

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