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Getting the tax basics right

/ Source: Forbes

This year's filing deadline is April 17, since the traditional deadline, April 15, falls on a Saturday. It's a day later (April 18) for taxpayers in the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont because the processing center in Andover, Mass., will observe Patriot's Day.

If you're about to split 12 dozen pencils into kindling and flog your computer as you prepare this year's income tax returns, relax — help is on the way. has teamed up with the authors of “Ernst & Young Tax Guide 2006” to develop tips to help you avoid paying more tax than necessary. The circumstances of your situation will determine if you qualify, so review the tax code and check with your tax adviser.

Mark Twain once quipped, “Never put off until tomorrow what you do the day after tomorrow.” Sound advice, if you think you can avoid last-minute mistakes on your tax return.

The average refund so far this year is $2,480, up from $2,371 last year and $2,182 in 2004, the Internal Revenue Service reports.

Getting withholding right and keeping more money in your pocket throughout the year will allow you to make better use of your earnings. It will eliminate the fat, interest-free refund in the spring, reducing what the shrinks might call "mailbox anxiety" as you paw through the junk mail in search of your refund check.

The most frequently asked question at phone-in IRS service centers is “where's my refund?” To track yours, go to and click on the line on the left side of the page titled — what else? — “Where's my refund?” Have a copy of your return handy, because you'll need to punch in some detailed information to assure privacy.

As you rush to complete this year's tax returns by the deadline, it might be a good time to think about what you can do differently next year. Getting organized is always a good start.