Bankrate's 2009 Tax Guide
A cartoon man reading a large piece of paper with a magnifying glass and a large coin with a "$" on it and a blue background
taxes
Bankrate's 7-day tax-filing plan

For most taxpayers, encountering unfamiliar paperwork is a big aggravation. But by examining the forms beforehand, you'll have a heads-up about what to expect when it comes time -- tomorrow -- to start filling them out.

Day 4: Fill out your forms

Now the real fun begins. Today we put pencil to paper to complete your return.

Actually, this should be a piece of cake (and one that's preferable to that aging fruit-filled holiday concoction) because you already have your income, deduction, exemption and credit information at your fingertips.

You can either work your way through income and deduction data stacks, entering the information at the appropriate tax return lines, or you can start at the beginning of your chosen 1040 and work your way down the return. It's a matter of personal preference, but if you're not overly comfortable in filing your taxes, you're probably better off going with the line-by-line approach.

A tip for entering information: Have the instruction book for your return handy. The 1040 and additional forms are pretty skeletal. The instructions help flesh out your entries, provide work sheets you might need and, in some cases, even let you know that a certain line doesn't apply to your filing situation.

Plus the instructions are where you'll find the tax tables. You'll need these to see just what your tax bill is.

Day 5: Take a break

Ignore your taxes.

You've made it past the filing halfway mark. You deserve a break!

Take today's tax hour and read a book, take a walk or luxuriate in a bubble bath. Tomorrow and taxes will be here soon enough.

Day 6: Check your work

OK, back to the filing grindstone. Today, with a fresh eye, double-check your tax form entries.

When people inspect their returns right after they've filled them out, they tend to see what they know should be entered rather than what is actually on the form.But thanks to yesterday's break, your review today will give you a new perspective.

Simple entry errors, text and mathematical, are the most common tax-filing mistakes. Make sure you haven't overlooked a deduction or a transposed dollar amount.

Don't forget the obvious. Check names -- yours, your spouse's, your children's and any other dependents'. Make sure you've entered the Social Security number for each and that the numbers are correct.

Finally, if you're not using computer software or an online program to make your calculations, plug in the adding machine and check your addition and subtraction again.

Day 7: Sign, seal and deliver

We're in the home stretch.

Confident that you've counted all your income, taken all the deductions you can and entered your information correctly and completely, it's time to wrap up your annual tax filing.

Make one final check of your return to guarantee that all is in order. Then sign it, make yourself a copy and send it on its way, either via the post office (make sure you've put enough stamps on the envelope) or by hitting the "enter" button on your computer keyboard.

And what to do with the rest of today's tax-filing hour?

Pour yourself a cold one, kick back and congratulate yourself on conquering your taxes in one relatively hassle-free week!

For more tax-filing information and tips, check out Bankrate's Tax Guide

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Our tax expert Kay Bell provides resourceful tips and advice to help you stay prepared for filing.

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