By Jacob Sager Weinstein, SELF magazine
1. Charge it
Drowning in receipts? Put an end to the paper chase by using one credit card for donations, deductible expenses and everything else tax-related. Next January, you can download a year's worth of records in one click, says Alexa von Tobel, founder of personal finance site LearnVest.com. (Don't do this if you have an unpaid balance.)
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2. Feel the Merge
Got multiple savings or brokerage accounts? Combine as many as possible, Von Tobel suggests. Fewer accounts to report on equals faster filing time.
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3. Go Pro
We're all for conserving cash by doing your own taxes, but an accountant does more than math. Tell her what's on tap-new house? new baby?-and she can help maximize the tax benefits. Jeff Schnepper, author of How to Pay Zero Taxes 2011, advises a visit at least once every three years. Make a date pronto to plan for the rest of this year.
4. Pay it Forward
Even if you have a 401(k), look into whether you can stash cash in a traditional IRA. It's more than a good investment; it could also be a tax deduction.
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5. Keep Your Cash
Don't celebrate that IRS refund. "It means you've given the government an interest-free loan," Von Tobel says. Check the calculator at IRS.gov to see that you're not having too much of your salary withheld; this year, aim to pay the government exactly what you owe and let the rest earn for you, not Uncle Sam.
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio