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Last minute tax tips

(cue "Jaws" music) It's almost the most dreaded date of the year - April 15th. Time to do your taxes. Even if you get a refund every year (congrats to you!), putting everything together and filing your taxes is still a colossal pain the rear end. However, I've got a few simple tips and reminders to make sure you get everything that's coming to you, as well as get your taxes in on time. 1) Get all your paperwork together: Before you do anything, ensure you've received your W- 2(s) from your employer/s, your bank and financial statements for capital gains and withdrawls (401K, IRA, Mutual Funds, Savings Accounts, etc.), and any 1099s if you did contract work. It's just easier to enter everything in, or for your Accountant, if you have all your paperwork in one place.

2) Itemize those deductions: Tons of things can be deducted from your taxes depending on your status (Married, Single, Kids, Unemployed, Self-Employed, etc), so be sure to keep and gather all your receipts: from childcare and dining to commuting, medical visits and expenses, cell phones, home phones, charitable donations, etc. It's best to ask your accountant what you can deduct but it also helps to keep receipts in one place so you aren't scrounging under couch cushions come April!

3) File on time: You don't want to mess with the US Government. They will find you and it won't be worth the aggravation of avoidance. Step up, be an adult and pay your taxes. Be sure you mail everything on time (the postmark has to say April 15, but it can arrive later) and make sure you don't selectively choose what to include on your taxes. Seriously, it's not worth it. My advice: mail off your return at least a week in advance to avoid absurd lines at the post office. Nobody's got time for that.

4) Hire a professional: Many people do their own taxes. It could be they want to save money. It could be they have a very simple return, or it could be they're well versed in the tax code. Personally, my return is a nightmare, so I have to hire someone. And honestly, it's worth it. First of all, I can be sure it's done right. Secondly, if anything ever arises and I get a letter from the IRS, my accountant handles it because they processed the return. So this option is up to you, but if you have any doubts about what to do and what to deduct, I'd ask some friends to recommend who they use and call that person. At worst it's a phone call. At best, you might get more back than you bargained for. Or at least owe less.

What are your tax time tips?

The joke's on...all of us!

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