Tax Tips Ahead of the Filing Deadline

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The clock is ticking for those who have yet to file their taxes. Tax returns for 2011 are due April 17, and experts have some helpful tips for last-minute filers.

This year, the Internal Revenue Service will process more than 140 million individual tax returns. At this point, electronic filing is likely the best option.

Research shows that eight out of 10 American taxpayers will file their 2011 returns electronically.

E-filing is faster, more convenient, and safer than filling out a paper return that can be lost or stolen. Electronic submissions are also more accurate and save taxpayers from having to start over with forms.

"If you're not doing this every single day, you look down at the stack of forms that's a foot-and-a-half thick and you say, 'Well where do I start? I can add and subtract, but where do I start?' That's the problem and that's where the software will help," tax expert Dan Pilla told CBN News.

Tax experts say that when filing, it's important to make choices that save the most money. One of those choices is whether to file an itemized or standard deduction.

Most recommend adding up all qualifying deductions like charitable giving, medical care, mortgage interest, and other eligible items.

Then take a look at the standard deduction:

  • $5,800 for those filing single
  • $11,600 for those filing jointly
  • $8,500 for those filing head of household
  • $5,800 for those married, but filing separately
  • $11,600 for a widow or widower

If the total credits of itemized expenses is greater than the amount a taxpayer can take as a standard deduction, then itemizing is the way to go.

Finally, experts say it's important to file taxes even if you can't afford to pay them yet.

This avoids the addition of extra fees and allows individuals to work out a payment plan with the IRS.

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