Start Planning Now for Next Year's Tax Return
1. Adjust your withholding Why wait another year for a big refund? Now is a good time to review your withholding and make adjustments for next year, especially if you'd prefer more money in each paycheck this year. If you owed at tax time, perhaps you'd like next year's tax payment to be smaller. Use IRS's Withholding Calculator at www.irs.gov or Publication 919, How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding?
2. Store your return in a safe place Put your 2011 tax return and supporting documents somewhere secure so you'll know exactly where to find them if you receive an IRS notice and need to refer to your return. If it is easy to find, you can also use it as a helpful guide for next year's return.
3. Organize your recordkeeping Establish a central location where everyone in your household can put tax-related records all year long. Anything from a shoebox to a file cabinet works. Just be consistent to avoid a scramble for misplaced mileage logs or charity receipts come tax time.
4. Review your paycheck Make sure your employer is properly withholding and reporting retirement account contributions, health insurance payments, charitable payroll deductions and other items. These payroll adjustments can make a big difference on your bottom line. Fixing an error in your paycheck now gets you back on track before it becomes a huge hassle.
5. Shop for a tax professional early If you use a tax professional to help you strategize, plan and make financial decisions throughout the year, then search now. You'll have more time when you're not up against a deadline or anxious for your refund. Choose a tax professional wisely. You are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your own return regardless of who prepares it. Find tips for choosing a preparer at www.irs.gov.
6. Prepare to itemize deductions If your expenses typically fall just below the amount to make itemizing advantageous, a bit of planning to bundle deductions into 2012 may pay off. An early or extra mortgage payment, pre-deadline property tax payments, planned donations or strategically paid medical bills could equal some tax savings. See the Schedule A instructions for expenses you can deduct if you're itemizing and then prepare an approach that works best for you.
7. Strategize tuition payments The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which offsets higher education expenses, is set to expire after 2012. It may be beneficial to pay 2013 tuition in 2012 to take full advantage of this tax credit, up to $2,500, before it expires. For more information, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.
8. Keep up with changes Find out about tax law changes, helpful tips and IRS announcements all year by subscribing to IRS Tax Tips through www.irs.gov or IRS2Go, the mobile app from the IRS. The IRS issues tips regularly during summer and tax season. Special Edition tips are sent periodically with other timely updates.The IRS emphasizes that each household's financial circumstances are different so it's important to fully consider your specific situation and goals before making large financial decisions.
You can find forms and publications at www.irs.gov or order them by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).