Tax Time Tips: Preparing Taxes, Refund Checks, Avoiding Audits and More

Have you filed your taxes yet? If you’re like me, the answer is “No.” There’s been some great tax-related stuff published in the past few weeks that may help to get you motivated for your 2009 filing.

Tips for preparing taxes

Get organized. If you follow these do-ahead steps from FinanceFreelanceLife, filing taxes should be a walk in the park (er, at least not a walk through Dante’s nine levels of hell).

20SomethingFinance helps you make the big decision: To Itemize or Not to Itemize. See the list of what you could potentially itemize, and learn how to organize your tax-deductible expenses throughout the year so next April is even easier than this one.

This glowing TurboTax review from FreeFromBroke will make you wonder if you shouldn’t kick your human tax preparer to the curb and just pick up some software instead. The review lays out the five editions of TurboTax and their pricepoints, so you can decide which will best meet your needs.

Bankrate highlights some of the craziest 2010 tax deductions (culled from accountants, who prefer to remain anonymous, across the country). Don’t pull these same stunts when filing your taxes, but do think a little outside the box to make sure you’re deducting all that you should be.

Unfortunately, if you’re a same-sex couple, you’re going to need to file a lot of extra paperwork to get the same tax advantages that many heterosexual married couples enjoy. The New York Times gives tax tips for same-sex couples, plus suggests a site called PridePlanners that helps you find certified tax preparers in your state that specialize in same-sex couple tax prep.

No need to pay taxes on those credit card rewards points you redeemed last year, you know, just in case you were wondering. The Consumerist dug deep to try to determine a definitive answer, and discovered that credi card rewards are no considered taxable gross income, so don’t worry about including them in your tax return.

Dual Income No Kids Finance offers 10 tax tips that small business owners should follow all year long.

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Identity theft and taxes

Imagine finally filing your taxes only to be told that someone else has already filed them under your same Social Security number. I mean, tax season is rough enough without identity theft. MyBankTracker offers some really valuable tips for protecting your identity during tax time.

Your tax preparer may not be the heaven-sent saint that you think them to be. Tax preparer identity theft does exist (see this story about an H&R Block office in Indiana). Make sure you vet anyone you’re thinking of handing over all of your sensitive identifying information to, and also check the security of their office. How do they store your personal information? Who has access to it? You can’t completely prevent illicit use of your identifying info, but by asking questions you can reduce risk.

Tax refunds

Jim at Bargaineering shares his average tax refund findings: of those who got a refund in 2008, the average amount was $2,683.

So, if you do get a refund, how should you spend it? SpendOnLife says by paying down debt and improving your credit score.

What if your refund check is wrong? FiveCentNickel tells you what to do and offers up contact information for the IRS. You might want to wear a headset while you call so you have both hands free to do other stuff as you wait on hold…

Owing Uncle Sam

If you’re not getting a refund this year, check out our guide on Options for Paying Your Taxes. We strongly discourage paying your taxes with a credit card (there are three good reasons not to do that). If you really can’t afford to pay Uncle Sam, there are some repayment plan options available.

All about audits

How does the IRS choose who to audit? Bargaineering lists out the four red flags that the government looks for when choosing cases to audit.

Moolanomy offers things that you can do that help you fly below the IRSĀ audit radar. Don’t go deduction-crazy, don’t fill out your return by hand, and report all your income.

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