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IRS tax formsWith Christmas trees up and holiday music playing 24/7, April 18 seems a world away. But it's never too early to start planning and getting your paperwork together for Income Tax time, say the experts.

Besides making the most of your flexible spending account and taking advantage of changes with the Roth IRA, here are five things to keep in mind when figuring out your 2010 tax bill.No More Forms By Mail
For the first time, the IRS is not mailing paper returns. If you want to file paper returns, you're going to have to download the forms and schedules from the IRS website yourself. After all, said J.K. Lasser Institute's Barbara Weltman, more than 35% of all 2009 tax returns were filed from home computers.

Make the Most of Credits, Deductions and Exemptions
Tame your tax bill by taking advantage where you can. For example, if you installed new insulation, a furnace, windows or anything that makes your home more energy efficient before the end of the year, you may qualify for up to $1,500 in home energy efficiency tax credits, says Bob Meighan, a CPA and vice president of TurboxTax.

There are also higher credit amounts for adoption, higher exemption amounts for the alternative minimum tax and higher standard deduction for heads of households.

Optimize New Tax Breaks
Weltman says that unlike last year, there is no phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers. And for the self-employed who buy their own health insurance, in 2010, they can not only continue to deduct it as a personal expense, they can also use it to reduce their net earnings from self-employment for the purpose of the self-employment tax.

Re-evaluate Your Tax Withholding
According to Meighan of TurboTax, almost 80% of all filers got a refund of about $3,000, so if you're one of them, he recommends that "you may want to adjust your payroll withholding for 2011 so you're getting more take home pay on a regular basis."

Get Back-Up
If you're going to maximize your write-offs, you may need to attach more documents than last year. For example, says Weltman, if you claim the adoption credit, you will need to submit to the IRS a copy of the adoption decree or order for domestic adoptions and, where applicable, certification of a special needs child. Foreign adoptions require the child's Hague Adoption Certificate, an IH-3 visa, or a foreign adoption decree translated into English. If the child's country of origin is not a party to the Hague Convention, then attach a copy of the translated decree or an IR-2 or IR-3 visa.

Claiming the first-time home-buyer credit? Be prepared to submit the HUD-1 settlement statement.

"Every little deduction, credit, and other tax break you can claim adds up to big tax savings, enabling you to keep more of what you earn," Weltman says.

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Are You Exempt From Health Care Coverage?

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is an individual mandate that requires all eligible Americans to have some form of basic health coverage by 2014. Those without insurance will receive a penalty when they file their tax returns ? that is, unless they have an exemption. TurboTax's Exemption Check can help you find out whether or not you qualify for an exemption.

Essential Tax Forms for the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as Obamacare, affects how millions of Americans will prepare their taxes in the new year. The law now includes penalties for all who haven?t obtained health insurance -- and those penalties are expected to be paid at tax time. The ACA also provides tax credits to help people pay for insurance, and you can claim those credits when you file your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has introduced a number of tax forms to accommodate the ACA.

Mortgage Refinance Tax Deductions

When refinancing a mortgage to get a lower interest rate or obtain more favorable loan terms, you're really just taking out a new loan and using the money to pay off your existing home loan. In general, the same tax deductions are available when you're refinancing a mortgage as when you're taking out a mortgage to buy a home.

How to Determine if You Have Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC)

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires most Americans to have health insurance that meets a government standard known as "minimum essential coverage," or MEC. Whether your insurance qualifies as MEC depends not on the plan itself, but on how you obtained your coverage.

Rental Property Deductions You Can Take at Tax Time

Rental property often offers larger deductions and tax benefits than most investments. Many of these are overlooked by landlords at tax time. This can make a difference in making a profit or losing money on your real estate venture. If you own a rental property, the IRS allows you to deduct expenses you pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the property, conserving and managing the property, and other expenses deemed necessary and associated with property rental.

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