Get your tax forms in order

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If you’re still doing your taxes with pen and paper, you’ve likely slogged through reams of paperwork to get your return done. Now don’t waste those hours of work.

Forms for a tax credit or extra deductions won’t do you any good if they don’t make it to the Internal Revenue Service. So before sealing the envelope, double-check that all the forms are in there.

The IRS notes that putting the forms in proper order behind your 1040 will make processing your return quicker. Take a look at the forms and you’ll see an attachment sequence number in the upper right corner, just beneath the year notation.

For example, Schedule A, used to claim itemized deductions, is number 07 and the form for credit for the elderly or disabled, Schedule R, is number 16. When your tax return material reaches the IRS, checking it is speedier with the supporting forms in order.

And don’t forget to send in the most crucial form: your W-2 income statement. The IRS says too often it gets tax returns without these documents, delaying return processing.

Staple your W-2s to your return, but leave any check you send loose. Why? Your tax payment gets snagged first, before the IRS begins any actual return checking. If you staple your check along with other documents, this supporting material could get separated when the check is pulled off.

Freelance writer Kay Bell writes Bankrate’s tax stories from her Austin, Texas, home. She also writes two tax blogs, Bankrate’s Eye on the IRS, and Don’t Mess With Taxes.

— Updated: April 11, 2008