Updated: 12/14/2012 6:15 PM ET|
7 easy steps to an early tax refund
4. Analyze the numbers
Sometimes, the raw numbers you have are going to be wrong.
On the income side, you're required to report any and all interest and dividends received, even if you don't receive a Form 1099.
You'll have to match up the sales of stock with the cost of those shares. The number shown by your broker on Form 1099-B last year was only the sale price. You're not taxed on 100% of that number. You reduce it, on Schedule D of your return, by your cost, including broker's fees. You're taxed only on the net profit. Your broker is now required to report cost basis as well. Speak with your broker before any sales are made, and discuss alternative ways of valuing shares if your whole position isn't liquidated. From a tax point of view, you want to sell the shares with the highest cost to minimize your current tax.
If you don't sell 100% of your position, you'll have to allocate your costs on a per-share basis.
On the deduction side, you may have deductions not reflected by the raw data.
Say you make your Jan. 1, 2013, mortgage payment on Dec. 31, 2012. The interest you pay won't be reflected on the Form 1098 sent by your mortgage company. That's because it won't get the check or the online payment until 2013. (If you pay online, be sure your bank records the date that you send the payment properly. A canceled check is still adequate proof.)
Paying before the end of the year transforms your January 2013 payment into a 2012 deduction, and you should run an amortization schedule to compute the additional interest. That additional interest would be shown on line 11 of your Schedule A.
(You can make the same tax move at the end of 2013, converting what would normally be a January 2014 payment into a 2013 deduction.)
5. Call your accountant
If you're going to have your return professionally prepared, call your accountant now for an appointment.
I know, you're her favorite client. But if you want an appointment tomorrow, you better call her yesterday.
In any case, once you've made that appointment, you've made a commitment to get your return done. And that means you've committed to get ready yourself. Just make sure you've got the numbers in order when you show up. Your wallet will appreciate it.
6. Put ink to paper
At least open the tax program on your computer. You've got your numbers. If you're doing your own return, put ink to paper. Go to your quiet place and actually do your return.
You've already done the real work. Now you're just putting numbers in boxes. Relax; this is the easy part. Remember, we started with how to get your refund faster.
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