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It's tax time: The corporate tax filing deadline is March 17 this year; individual tax returns are due next month. What to do first?

Take a deep breath.

That's what tax accountant Scott F. Berger, principal at Kaufman, Rossin & Co., in Boca Raton, Fla., tells his small business clients when they show up, some clutching shoe boxes and shopping bags stuffed with receipts and credit-card statements. They're sometimes sweating and nervous. "They think it's like going to the dentist," Berger says. "I tell them: 'Relax, it's only taxes.'"

Easy for him to say. A February survey of 600 small business owners done by domain registry GoDaddy.com showed that 40 percent of small business owners labeled bookkeeping and taxes the most unpleasant part of owning a small business. Part of the problem might be that more than half still use spreadsheets-or paper and pencil-to track company finances, and 40 percent reported taking six or more hours to complete their returns.

Nearly two decades after small business accounting software hit the market, tax time doesn't have to be so onerous or so scary. Here are ways to make tax prep a little more zen. Have you taken that deep breath yet?

Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

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