taxes

Complete our 10-point tax return checklist

8. Sign and date the return. If you file a joint return, both spouses must sign, even if only one had income. Both signatures are required on paper forms and e-filed returns. Electronic filers sign using a Personal Identification Number, or PIN, a five-digit identifier each taxpayer selects using his or her adjusted gross income and birth date.

9. Provide a daytime phone number. It could speed the processing of your return if the IRS has questions. Joint filers can use the contact phone number for either spouse. If you paid a professional to do your return, make sure that person's contact info is complete. And you can now refer questions about your tax return to anyone you choose, tax pro or not. Simply fill out the third-party designee line (name, tax ID number and phone number) to give the IRS permission to call that person for answers.

The third-party designee line is just above the taxpayer signature line on the 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ forms (paper and electronically filed versions). It asks, "Do you want to allow another person to discuss this return with the IRS?" By checking the "yes" box, the taxpayer gives the IRS permission to call the person specifically named to answer any questions that could arise during the processing of the return. Additional information on this option is provided in the instruction book for each return.

10. In the past few years, as the IRS has reorganized and consolidated its services, some of its return processing and service center locations have changed. Make sure you send your return to the proper place. Check inside the back cover of your tax instruction booklet for the correct mailing address for your return or use the IRS' locator map.

Also note that there are different mailing addresses depending on whether you are paying a tax bill or getting money back. Use the correct one because it helps the IRS process returns more quickly.

Did your return pass this final inspection? Great! Send it on its way.

If not, it's better that you, rather than the IRS, catch the mistake. The few extra minutes you spend finding and fixing an error heads off a tax encounter later. And now you can say you are done, correctly, with your taxes until next year.

Find more tax-filing information and tips in 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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