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Filing tax returns sooner could mean sooner refunds

ONALASKA, Wis.--It is that time of year again; time to start filing your tax returns. Starting Tuesday, people can electronically file through the IRS website. In 2010 nearly 80 percent of all taxpayers filed their tax returns online through the e-filing system.

While this may be an easier way to get your taxes done, some experts say it might not hurt to have a professional double-check your work.


Becker Tax and Bookkeeping in Onalaska is gearing up for a busy next three months.

"It's kind of the calm before the storm," said Libby Parr, of Becker Tax and Bookkeeping. "People will be calling right now to make their appointments."

 The company has used the e-filing system through the IRS website for nearly 10 years to help clients file their tax returns, and it's a trend the IRS says is catching on. 

"It's much easier for people to go online and file electronically," said Diane Fox, Director of the IRS Free File system. "It takes away a lot of common mistakes that people make. "It's a lot faster and it does all the hard work for you. It's fast, it's safe and it's free."

Through the IRS e-filing system, taxpayers can pick and choose which brand-name tax software they want to use to file their returns. The system also finds the latest tax breaks like the earned income, tuition and energy credits, making sure you get your money's worth in returns.

The IRS says if people file their returns earlier and if they choose to receive their refund through direct deposit, people can get their refund checks in as little as 10 days.

Fox said the e-filing system will also help catch some of the common mistakes people make.

"One of the most common mistakes is that people forget to sign their return," said Fox. "So, when you file electronically, that problem goes away. People also sometimes forget to put their social security number and/or transpose numbers in the social. Doing it electronically takes away a lot of the mistakes people can make, including math errors."

But Parr says filing returns online yourself isn't for everyone. 

" Well, it's always nice, I think, to get your taxes done by a professional because we keep up on the tax law changes and it can sometimes be a little overwhelming getting all of your papers and looking at all of them. So, it's nice to have somebody be able to sort thought everything."

Becker Tax and Book-keeping recommends people wait until they have all of the other forms required before they file their paperwork. That way, taxpayers can spend less time waiting for their refunds.

"We always encourage people to wait until they have all of their forms before coming in to file all of their returns so that they can avoid having to file an amended return," said Parr. "Amended returns are always an option, but it takes about eight to 12 weeks to process those because they cannot be e-filed."

In 2011, the average taxpayer received about a $3,000 tax refund, which was down about three percent from 20-10.This year, officials say it could also be a little lower than usual since the social security tax withheld from paychecks was lower.

The deadline to file your tax returns is Tuesday, April 17th this year. It's two days later than normal because the 15th falls on a Sunday and the Emancipation Day holiday is on Monday.

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