Believe it or not, many Americans find it hard to sit back and relax when they're given the OK to stay home from work because of adverse weather conditions. Bundling up and building jolly snowmen, then coming inside for a cozy cup of cocoa holds no appeal for them -- it's drilled into their heads that it's a week day, and they should be productive.
If you find yourself in that position, or it's just plain too cold and miserable to enjoy the outdoors on a snow day, the Illinois CPA Society (appropriately enough, considering the weather there) encourages you to make good use of your time indoors and start working on your 2010 tax return. The organizations suggests that you'll be glad you did when it's a beautiful day in early April and you don't have to stay inside to get your taxes done by the deadline.
They offer these suggestions to help you out:
- Get organized. Start by pulling together all your paperwork -- items like your 2009 return, W2 forms, interest income statements, documentation for charitable donations, and if you itemize deductions, receipts sorted by type and date.
- Review documents, correct as needed. Don't assume important items like 1099 forms or W2s are correct -- check your address, your Social Security Number and other details. These forms should have been mailed to you by Jan. 31, so follow up if any are missing or incorrect. However, investment houses have until Feb. 15 to provide 1099s.
- Look for possible deductions and credits. The IRS website is a great resource for details on current tax credits and deductions. IRS Publication 17 summarizes the 2010 changes and offers guidance on which forms to use and how to file. There's even a section on "The 'What Ifs' of an Economic Downturn" that addresses situations like job loss and foreclosure.
- Double-check your work. Once you start preparing your return, don't make obvious mistakes or forget to include anything. Check your math; double-check your Social Security Number, your spouse's Social Security Number, your income and any other numbers or details. If you were married or divorced during the year, don't forget to indicate a status change. Make sure you understand how your tax preparation software works; don't gloss over question prompts or you may lose some nice deductions.
Preparing taxes might not be the most exciting way to spend your unexpected snow days, but it's homework we all must do sooner or later, and it will keep you from the temptation of doing it on company time in the next few months.
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