11/13/2013 06:11 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

15 Things to Know, to Do and to Watch for as 2013 Comes to a Close

Thanksgiving is nearing, and December is right around the corner. I've said it before--it's never too early to start thinking about your tax situation. Taxes are always complicated, seemingly ever changing, and so is your life. All of this affects your tax situation. So, preparation is critical filing season around the corner, the time to prepare is now. Let's look at some important tips to help you prepare for the tax filing season.

Five Things to Know
  • The majority of taxpayers today e-file their tax returns - well over 100 million last year in fact. It is faster, safer and you will receive your refund check from the IRS faster than filing a paper return.
  • Tax fraud and identify theft are a growing problem and are expected to get worse this year. By filing early, you can prevent thieves from being able to use your social security number and personal information to file a return under your name.
  • The IRS has announced a "delay" to the start of tax season for filing a tax return of potentially a week or so. In reality this will have very little impact on the preparation of your tax return which can begin as soon as you are ready and have your documents.
  • The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare says that all Americans must have health insurance by January 1, 2014. So either have health insurance coverage or have exposure for a penalty at the end of the year.
  • The rules related to Flexible Spending accounts or Cafeteria plans have been relaxed no longer requiring all benefits to be used by December 31 or lost. Plans can allow employees to carry over up to500 to the following year without forfeiture, provided the plan has been amended to account for this.
Five Things to Watch For
  • If the debt ceiling is reached (estimated to be hit around January 15, 2014), it could impact the IRS' operations, including another possible government shutdown or IRS staffing cuts during the tax season.
  • New taxes are in place for 2013 including two very new taxes on higher income taxpayers. The new Additional Medicare Tax of .9% and the Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8% will catch many taxpayers by surprise.
  • There are easily over a dozen very popular tax breaks that expire on December 31, 2013 (even without tax reform or larger law changes). These breaks are gone. They include benefits such as Tuition and Fees deductions, Deduction for Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI, Nonbusiness Energy Tax credits and many others. If you take these or have in the past, they are gone for next year.
  • Same sex couples can file joint federal tax returns for 2013 (and even amend prior years) if they are legally married. State rules are not quite so clear. If the new DOMA ruling applies to you, be sure to understand the implications and especially state rules.
  • There is much talk of substantial tax reform coming in 2014. Many proposals and bills have already been drafted and are being discussed by elected officials. Watch for more change in 2014 that may affect your next year tax return. There WILL be winners and LOSERS after the dust settles.
Five Things to Do Before December 31
  • Think about any life changes you had in 2013 and how these may impact your tax return. Many common events, like having a baby or buying a home, can trigger tax credits or deductions - but so can taking care of a parent or boomerang child. Start planning for your income tax return by putting together an action timeline and to-do list.
  • Consider year-end tax moves that will reduce your taxable income, such as giving to charity, prepaying your January mortgage payment or increasing your retirement plan contributions.
  • Embrace tax technology this year and find your favorite tax service website and mobile app. They can help you get organized, find deductions and credits, locate a preparer close to you, and even track the status of your tax return and refund once you have filed.
  • Create a plan with your tax preparer that includes a list of things to do to get your taxes done this year. Start a shoebox for your tax documents, review your year for life changes and put a target date on the calendar to file.
  • Locate that prior year tax return copy and folder of information. Last year information is a great place to start for getting ready this year.