If anyone should know the top ten tax tips for individual taxpayers, it's the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the industry's trade group. And fortunately, they do.
AICPA's top 10 tax tips for individual taxpayers are:
1. Get organized. If you don't have your W-2 and 1099 forms, you can't do your taxes. Put them where you can find them.And keep good records of your deductions. If you keep good records, you won't overpay, and you'll be able to answer any questions from the Internal Revenue Service easily.
NEED HELP: Get all the latest tax news and advice
2. Don't be late. Your federal tax return must be filed before midnight on Tuesday, April 15. You can get an extension if you file IRS Form 4868 by April 15, but you still have to pay your taxes by April 15 to avoid penalties and interest. And check the filing deadline for your state: It may be different than the Federal deadline.
3. Protect your ID. Your records include important identification information, and identity thieves would love to have that. Got an e-mail from the IRS requesting personal or financial information? It's bogus.
4. Investigate the details if you are filing as a legally married same-sex couple. Legally married same-sex couples do not have to reside in the state in which they were legally married to qualify. But the new IRS rules do not apply to domestic partnerships or civil unions. Because state income tax laws vary, same-sex couples may want to get help from a local CPA.
5. Prepare and hold. It's not unusual for taxpayers to receive corrected 1099 forms late in the tax filing season. If you have investments, prepare your tax return now and then delay filing it electronically until just before the April 15 deadline. You can take your time preparing your return and make last-minute changes without filing an amended return.
"If you're going to have a large balance due on April 15, you want to find out now," says Melissa Labant, director of tax advocacy for the AICPA. "That's much better than a surprise at the last minute."
6. Check your tax breaks. Just because you got certain exemptions and deductions last year, don't assume you can claim the same ones this year. New rules have kicked in phasing out exemptions at certain income levels and imposing new limits on deductions. For example, medical and dental deductions must exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income, unless you or your spouse is 65 or older and then it's still 7.5%.
"Your personal situation may not have changed, but tax rules are always changing," Labant says. "The rules for 2013 are significantly different than the rules for 2012."
7. Review. Review. Review. Two of the most common mistakes made by taxpayers – incorrect Social Security numbers and math calculations – significantly slow down the refund process.. They're also the easiest to correct. Slow down and double-check your return before it's filed. "It's a common mistake to get the numbers transposed -- sometimes for a number of years," Labant says. It's a headache that can be eliminated in a few minutes of review.
8. Use Direct Deposit. The fastest way to get a refund is to have it deposited directly into your bank account.
9. File Electronically. E-filing is the easiest way to file a tax return. You'll avoid the long lines at the post office, save on postage -- and get your return faster.
10. Don't be shy. What you don't know can cost you Don't guess. Your local CPA can help you determine how the tax law applies to your specific situation, including whether you qualify for one or more of the special provisions in the tax code. The AICPA's 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website has information on a variety of tax topics. The official IRS websitehas answers to typical questions.