The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the tax-filing deadline to April 17 this year, but that doesn’t mean that you should wait to complete your income tax returns.

If you’re one of the many Americans who dread the annual income-tax filing ritual, FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information, has some last-minute tax tips to help ease the pain of the process.

  • Gather your tax documents. While it’s a good idea to keep a running file of each year’s tax documents, you’ll have to play catch-up if you don’t already have a 2011 tax file. If you are among the procrastinators who need to sort through a backlog of mail to find your 2011 tax documents, keep in mind that tax information from employers, banks, and schools typically includes a notice on the envelope that tax information is enclosed. If a document that you are expecting — like your W-2 or 1099 — is still missing by March 1, contact your human resources department about getting a reissued document.
  • Get help. If you find income tax returns depressing, or you’re too busy to do your own taxes, hire a professional tax preparer to complete your tax returns as soon as possible. (Tax professionals become busier as April approaches; if you wait until April 15 to enlist a tax professional’s services, you may be forced to file an extension.) If you feel comfortable completing your own tax return, a tax software program can simplify the process.
  • File electronically. If you’re getting a refund, electronic filing helps you get your refund faster. Refunds on electronic returns are usually issued within two weeks after filing. Even if you have to pay this year, electronic filing is the faster, greener way to submit your tax return.
  • Start planning for next year. With a little planning, next year’s tax return filing can be even easier. Start your 2012 file now, and collect charitable receipts and other tax documents throughout the year. Also, keep a copy of your tax return, whether a hard copy or an electronic copy, for future reference. If you’re audited, you’ll need up to seven years of previously filed returns.

To learn more about personal income taxes, or to find more tips for filing, visit FindLaw.com.

– Michelle Croteau, Director, Marketing Communications
with Robyn Hagan Cain, FindLaw Audience Team

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