Preparing Your Tax Return

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Even though you get an extra two days to file your federal income tax return this year, it’s never too early to learn about your options for preparing the forms.

Here are three.

Do it yourself. You have the option of filing electronically, for free, at the Internal Revenue Service web site, or you can opt to fill out paper forms. Yes, they still exist. Though the IRS stopped mailing tax packages, you can find forms at most libraries, post offices or your local IRS office. You can also download and print forms from the IRS website.

Go to a free preparer. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax preparation and electronic filing if your income is less than $50,000. Tax Counseling for the Elderly clinics are available for tax preparation and e-filing if you’re over sixty. Check your local library or newspaper for information about where the clinics are in your area.

Hire a professional. Got a complicated situation this year? Take your neatly organized information to a Certified Public Accountant or Enrolled Agent. The cost of professional advice can easily be recouped in tax savings.

No matter which route you choose, be sure your return is postmarked or e-filed by April 17, 2012 to avoid penalties.

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