Disclosure: I am a LifeLock brand ambassador and I am being compensated, however, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.
With the tax deadline being just over three weeks away many Americans find themselves scrambling to find all of the forms, receipts and statements they need in order to file their taxes on time. If that’s you, take a deep breath…you still have some time.
As a LifeLock ambassador I was thrilled when I found out the topic for this month is taxes! Yes, you heard that right! I LOVE TAXES! I am one of THOSE nerds. haha! My degree is in accounting and I’ve always been a numbers person. Does that make a bit more sense? Yes, I love doing taxes! Because I love doing taxes, I want to share some tips with you: some last minute tips with three weeks left until the deadline, some tips to help you throughout the year for filing next year, and finally some tips on how you can take the steps to ensure your tax returns are filed safely.
Last Minute Tips for Filing 2012 Taxes
- Filing electronically can be quicker provided you do it safely. See below safety tips for ensuring your safety. It can also save you the time and trouble of finding a post office that is open late.
- If you are mailing your return know that not every post office is open until midnight on the date of deadline. Be sure you check ahead for your local post office’s hours and if they are not open late be sure you know which post office is just in case you need to mail your return late on deadline day.
- Don’t stress out if you haven’t been able to find all of the documents you need. You can set the goal and make steps to be more organized for next year but in the meantime you can file for an extension for your 2012 taxes. Be sure you estimate and pay any amount you think you may owe in order to avoid fees and penalties later, but for now grab the form from the IRS website to file for an extension. Almost anyone can apply for an automatic six-month extension to get rid of that stress of the April 15 deadline approaching.
- If you want to take advantage of making a tax-deductible IRA contribution you can do so until April 15! It’s not too late to take advantage of a tax benefit while at the same time save for retirement!
- Familiarize yourself with the new tax laws. Each year the IRS changes/adds new things. Make sure you are aware of these changes to take full advantage of any deductions or credit you are due.
Tips for Preparing Throughout the Year
- Start a folder and keep all important tax related receipts and documents in that folder. This will prevent last minute panic when you need to get all of this information in order to file your taxes. Store this folder in the safe.
- Ask your accountant for a tax deduction worksheet. If you don’t have an accountant you can also search for these forms online. This is great to have as a reference throughout the year and to familiarize yourself with exactly what you can deduct. Many professions can deduct items for their jobs (my husband is a teacher and we get a deduction for items he buys for the classroom, for example).
- Take advantage of medical reimbursement and dependent care reimbursement accounts to lower your taxable income. If you aren’t familiar with these accounts make it a point to research them, ask questions to your HR department and start using them! They really are beneficial!
Safety Tips for Filing Taxes
- Remember for next year, file your return as soon as possible. If you’re the first to file your tax return, any identity thief that tries to do so under your name and number will be denied.
- You should steer clear of tax preparers who do not offer to sign your tax return and provide you with a copy for your records. Also, avoid tax preparers that base their fee off of the amount of your return.
- A common tax scam uses a website that looks like the IRS e-Services online registration page and claims to need your personal and financial information for tax purposes. The official IRS website is www.irs.gov, its e-Services pages offers web-based products for tax preparers, not the general public.
- The IRS does not send registration forms by email. These attachments and links are malicious and can be used to steal personal and financial information. If you receive an email like this you should simply forward it to email@example.com and delete the email.
- The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information. Be ware of messages you may receive.
- Don’t carry your SSN or Taxpayer ID number with you. If you happen to lose these documents, they could fall into the wrong hands and result in your identity and/or tax return stolen.
- Keep personal information and documents in a safe throughout the year.
- Only trust electronic filing services that are registered on the official IRS website.
- It is safe to give out personal information through the phone, Internet, or mail, but only if you have initiated contact to a verified number, website, or address.
- If you are paper filing take your return directly to the post office to lessen the chance of it getting intercepted on its way to the IRS.
- Never sign a form before it is filled out. You never know if it will be accurately be filled out and if anything goes wrong you will be at fault, not the person who prepared your taxes for you.
- When filing online make sure you use a secure network. Filing your taxes on a public network leaves you vulnerable to hackers who pray on people who are using public Wi-Fi for information sensitive transactions.
Taxes don’t have to be scary. Many people put them off until this late in the game because they are afraid of what the outcome will be, they are afraid the won’t have everything they need, or they just don’t want to deal with it. You can assure yourself that with a tiny bit of preparation you can be ready to file early next year! It’s not that bad, trust me!
Thank you to LifeLock for providing the information in the safety tips for filing tax returns section. Be sure you follow LifeLock on Twitter and Facebook for more tips and if you don’t already have a LifeLock membership I highly suggest you look into it to protect your identity. It’s unfortunate that there are thieves out there but the best thing you can do is protect yourself before anything happens. With LifeLock you’ll never have to worry!