Many happy returns

It’s that time of year again. The time when all the procrastinators start fretting April 15: tax day. Paying taxes isn’t what most of us would consider fun, but here are some great resources for getting your filing in on time and taking advantage of credits along the way.

Nightly Business Report’s Tax Tips with Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger’s Finance reviews the best ways to get the most out of your possible credits. This week he explores college tax credits:

For 2009, the hope credit is replaced by a more valuable American opportunity credit for most students. The new credit is worth up to $2,500 for up to four years of college. If you paid bills for three undergrads last year, you could knock $7,500 off your tax bill. And if you earned too much in the past to qualify for the hope credit, don’t give up hope for the American opportunity credit.

Now that it’s crunch time, should you still try to file on your own, or is it worth it to hire an accountant? NPR’s Tamara Keith asked Facebook fans of NPR to tell their stories of tax preparation, including this one from David Falcheck, who is happy to go it alone:

“This year I think I really got over the hump and it took me less time than I thought it was going to take,” says Falchek. But there was a time when Falchek decided his taxes had gotten too complicated to handle on his own.

And there are several stories of marital tension (and at least one of bliss) about tax season:

In Lincoln, Neb., Jody Boyce and her husband do their taxes together on the same date every year. The tradition started several years ago… But taxes don’t spell romance for everyone. One person who commented said she and her husband turned to an accountant after doing their own taxes caused the ugliest argument in their eight-year relationship.

Whether you’re an early starter who has already filed and put your refund safely in the bank, or you’re still procrastinating, here are some tips from Marketplace about how we can all do better end-of-year planning in 2010.

Former Wall Street Journal tax columnist Tom Herman suggests:

Start by taking a fresh look at your investments. Focus on your losers, that are now selling for less than you paid for them. If you were thinking of dumping them between now and the year end, this is a good time to do it. I know that it’s painful to admit you’ve lost money on a stock.

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