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More 2012 Tax Tips, Courtesy of the IRS

Laguna Niguel Patch kicked off its series, "Today's Tax Tips," on Friday, Jan. 6, to help readers get an early start. Here is the next installment of even more tips from the IRS.

In 2011, Laguna Niguel Patch provided readers with tax tips and we're back again this year.

Here is our next installment to help you get started courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

Top 10 Tax Tips

The income  tax filing season has begun and important tax documents  should be  arriving in your mailbox. Even though your return is not due  until  April, you can make tax time easier on yourself with an  early  start. Here are the Internal Revenue Service’s top 10 tips to  ensure a  smooth tax-filing process.

1. Gather your records Any documents you’ll need when filing your  taxes: receipts, canceled   checks and other documents that support income or deductions you’re   claiming on your return.

2. Be on the lookout W-2s and 1099s will be coming soon;  you’ll  need these to file your tax return.

3. Have a question? Use the Interactive Tax Assistant available on the IRS website to find  answers to your tax questions  about credits, deductions, general filing  questions and more.

4. Use  Free File Let Free File do  the hard work for you with  brand-name tax software or online fillable  forms.  It's available  exclusively at www.irs.gov. Everyone  can find an option to prepare  their tax return and e-file it for free.  If you made $57,000 or less,  you qualify to use free tax software  offered through a private-public  partnership with manufacturers. If   you made more or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's   Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms.   Visit www.irs.gov/freefile to  review your options.

5. Try  IRS e-file IRS e-file is  the safe, easy and most  common way to file a tax return. Last year, 79  percent  of taxpayers -  106 million people - used IRS e-file. Many tax preparers  are now  required to use e-file. If you owe taxes, you have payment  options to  file immediately and pay by the tax deadline. Best of all, the IRS  issues refunds to 98  percent of electronic filers by direct deposit  within 14 days, if  there are no problems, and some may be issued in as  few as 10 days.

6. Consider other  filing options There are many  options for  filing your tax return.  You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax  preparer. You may be  eligible for free face-to-face help at a volunteer  site. Give yourself  time to weigh all the options and find the one  that best suits your  needs. 

7. Consider direct deposit If you elect to have your  refund directly deposited into your  bank account, you’ll receive it  faster than a  paper check in the mail.

8. Visit the official IRS website often The IRS website at www.irs.gov is a  great  place to find everything you need to file your tax return: forms,   publications, tips, answers to frequently asked  questions and updates  on tax law changes.

9. Remember this number: 17 Check out IRS  Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, on the  IRS website. It’s a  comprehensive resource for  taxpayers, highlighting everything you’ll  need to know when filing your  return.

10. Review! Review! Review! Don’t rush. We all make  mistakes when we rush.  Mistakes slow down the processing of your  return. Be sure to  double check all the Social Security numbers and  math calculations on  your return as these are the most common errors.  Don’t panic! If you run  into a problem, remember the IRS is here to  help.  Start with www.irs.gov

Make it Easy on Yourself: Choose  the Simplest Tax Form

If you're among the taxpayers who still file  a paper return, the IRS  reminds you that it no longer mails paper tax  packages, a step the   agency took after continued growth in electronic filing, the   availability of free options and as a way to reduce costs. If you're   e-filing, the software will choose the best form for you, but if you're   taking pencil to paper, make it as simple as possible  by choosing the  simplest tax form for your situation.

The quickest way to get forms and  instructions is the IRS website at  www.irs.gov. Taxpayers can also get  them from a local IRS office, a  participating community outlet like  many libraries and post offices, or  from the IRS's automated forms line   at 1-800-TAX-FORM.

Here are some general rules to consider when  deciding which paper  tax form to file.

Use the 1040EZ if:

• Your taxable income is below $100,000
• Your filing  status is single or married filing jointly
• You and your spouse –  if married -- are under age 65 and not blind
• You are not claiming  any dependents
• Your interest income is $1,500 or less

Use the 1040A if:

• Your taxable income is below $100,000
• You have capital gain  distributions
• You claim certain tax credits
• You claim  adjustments to income for IRA contributions and student loan  interest

If you cannot use the 1040EZ or the 1040A,  you’ll probably need to  file using the 1040. Among the reasons you must use the 1040 are:

• Your taxable income is $100,000 or more
• You claim itemized  deductions
• You are reporting self-employment income
• You are  reporting income from sale of property

You can gain quick and easy access to IRS  forms and instructions or  find out more about e-file by visiting www.irs.gov.  Tax products  are available 24 hours a day, seven days a  week and  often appear online well before they are available on paper.  To view  and download tax products, visit the IRS website and select Forms  and Publications.

Four Ways to Get IRS  Forms and Publications

The  Internal Revenue Service has free tax forms and publications on a  wide  variety of topics. Because of continued growth in electronic  filing,  the availability of free options to taxpayers and to reduce  costs, the IRS discontinued the automatic mailing of  paper tax packages  last tax season.

If you need IRS  forms and publications, here are four easy methods  for getting them.

  1. On the Internet You can access forms and publications on   the IRS website 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at www.irs.gov.
  2. IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers There are 401 TACs across   the country where IRS offers face-to-face assistance to taxpayers, and   where taxpayers can pick up many IRS forms and publications. Visit www.irs.gov and go to Contact My  Local Office on the Individuals page to find a list of  TAC  locations by state. On the Contact My Local Office page, you can  also select Office Locator and enter your zip code to find the  IRS walk-in  office nearest you as well as a list of the services  available at  specific offices.
  3. At convenient  locations in your community During the tax  filing season, many libraries and post offices offer  free tax forms  to  taxpayers. Some libraries also have copies of commonly requested   publications. Many large grocery stores, copy centers and office supply   stores have forms you can photocopy or print from a CD.
  4. By mail You can call 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676)   Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time – except Alaska and  Hawaii which follow  Pacific time – to order current year forms,  instructions and  publications as well as prior year forms and  instructions by mail.  You will receive your order by mail, usually  within 10 days.

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