Happy 2018! Six Tax Prep Tips for Your Best Tax Return

01/12/2018 01:18 pm ET

While you’re thinking about your resolutions to improve your health or making professional strides for the New Year, don’t forget about your financial well-being. It’s time to start getting organized and focused on your taxes for 2017 and planning for 2018, especially given recent tax reform. Whether you self-file or use a tax pro, here are some tips on getting ready to file, seeing the biggest refund you deserve, and protecting yourself all at the same time:

1. Know What You Need to Have – Recognize What You Don’t

No one expects you to become a tax expert, but knowing the types of things that could get you a credit or deduction can only help. Do your prep work and get all your stuff ready: last year’s taxes, this year’s documents and receipts, and bring notes about all your big life changes. If you don’t know, or aren’t sure, find a tax pro to help you navigate these issues and prepare an accurate return.

2. File Early

Get a jump-start on your taxes to reduce stress, reduce ID theft related to tax refund fraud, and look good to your spouse, significant other or just your peers. Starting your return early gives you more time to gather necessary information that could increase the amount you get back for a maximum refund. Also, if you file earlier in the season, you get your refund earlier– so simple. So why wait? Plus if you file earlier, you are at less risk for some fraudster filing your information before you.

3. Work Smarter – Not Harder with a Tax Pro

Did you start a new business? Full-time, part time, or just an on the side job? Get married? Add a child or parent to your household? You or family member head to school? Take an early look at what these milestones will mean for your taxes this year and what they will mean for filing in 2019 after the tax reform. Contact your Tax Pro and schedule your appointment early to get started, get your taxes done, and get that refund!

4. Know Key Deadlines and Plan for Refund Turnaround Times

Keep in mind, some laws designed to help prevent fraudulent tax refunds also delay refunds on returns claiming the EITC or ACTC. The IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC until mid-February based on the laws passed last year. This should not delay you in preparing and filing your return.

5. The IRS Never Calls First

Several phone and Internet scams and even e-mail scams are trying to take advantage of people. The IRS will never call or email you as a first step; they will always communicate first via snail mail. Learn how to take a proactive step to combat fraud and to protect what can feel like the biggest paycheck of the year. A Tax Pro can help and even identify fake IRS letters or calls.

6. Plan Now for Next Year’s Tax Reform Changes

Taking care of 2017 taxes early helps pave the way to start thinking about how you can optimize your situation for your 2018 taxes. Withholdings, retirement contributions, FSA accounts, and an accurate tax documents system (even if just a shoebox or large envelope) are just some of the topics that jump out at me when I think tax planning – and that’s before I tackle any new rules from the recent big tax law change for 2018. Make a plan now to do a mid-year checkup. Then you and your Tax Pro will know even more about the impact these new tax laws are going to have and can help you adjust accordingly.

Most importantly, gather your information and get your taxes done in the coming days. Three out of four taxpayers get a big refund and you don’t want to miss out.

It is your money, keep more of it and get it sooner.

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