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Doing Your Income Tax Return On Time
Doug Smith

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All businesses and most individual taxpayers are required to file a federal income tax return. The name is pretty self-explanatory: it is a "return" of your "taxes," if you overpaid. If you didn't pay enough, it turns into a "tax payment" or a "tax bill." Individual tax payers can often prepare their own returns, and file or e-file them on their own. Business taxes can be much more complex, and may require the services of a professional tax income return preparer. Corporations often hire or have on retainer a group of its own tax accountants, or a professional tax preparation firm, to file its annual returns.

Tax accountants are highly trained in the tax code and can assist individual citizens in completing their federal returns to get either a tax refund or to determine how much tax needs to be paid to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). The preparation of the return involves much more than typing numbers into boxes on Form 1040, however. It is necessary for the return preparer to know the relationships between all the numbers, including earned income, federal income tax withheld, deductions, and so on. Taxable form completion requires knowledge of a whole new accounting language, and an understanding of financial and taxable concepts. That is why very good tax consultants can prepare returns that just might increase a person's refund by thousands and a company's refund by millions!

Outside help is not required for preparation of your return, however. Some taxpayers choose to tackle their own taxes by preparing their own returns. Some do it using paper and pencil and loads of IRS forms (1040, 1099, W-2, etc.), while others choose the easier and simpler tax preparation software to create returns. Some business accounting software will print an end of year summary of business expenses and income, and some tax programs can import such data directly from the software. The accuracy of the return is increased by using software to do it, as most software companies guarantee to reimburse you for any fees or penalties caused by a mistake by their software.

The Internal Revenue Service maintains a free website at that includes a great deal of tax help for filing your return. You can download and print forms, worksheets, and instructions. There is also lots of text help, such as explanations of deductions, earned income tax credit, and exactly who is required to file a federal return. If you filed and paid taxes but were not legally required to do so, you can even get a form for a refund of any taxes you mistakenly paid.

Just as watching a TV show about doctors does not enable you to perform surgery, reading tax documents from the IRS does not make you an expert tax preparer of your return. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an IRS-sponsored service designed to simplify the return preparation process for those with problems. This free service can be accessed by a free phone number, by mail, or even by visiting a local IRS office. From professional preparation services to taxpayer assistance, there is plenty of help available for you while you are trying to file your federal income tax return forms.

Copyright 2008 by Doug Smith.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Unauthorized Duplication Prohibited.  Not Intended to be Professional Advice.

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