First and foremost, I want to wish all my readers a happy and peaceful New Year. Your emails and calls are appreciated.

It's that time of year again. The income-tax-filing season has begun and important documents should be arriving in the mail. Even though your return is not due until April, getting an early start will make filing easier.

Here are the Internal Revenue Service's top tips that will help your tax-filing process go smoother than ever this year:

Start gathering your records. Round up any documents or forms you'll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you're claiming on your return.

Check your mail. W-2s (make sure you receive one for every job) and 1099s will be coming soon (by Jan. 31); you'll need these to file your tax return.

E-file. After 32 years, the IRS e-file has become the safe, easy and most-common way to file a tax return. Last year, nearly 145 million people used IRS e-file.

Filing options. There are many different options for filing your tax return. You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax-preparer. Give yourself time to weigh all the different options and find the one that best suits your needs.

Consider Direct Deposit. If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you'll receive it faster than waiting for a paper check. Best of all, combine e-file with direct deposit and get your refund in as few as 10 days.

Visit the IRS website. The official IRS website ( is a great place to find everything you'll need to file your tax return: forms, publications, tips, answers to frequently asked questions and updates on tax-law changes.

Check and re-check. Don't rush. We all make mistakes when we rush. Mistakes will slow down the processing of your return. Be sure to double-check all the Social Security numbers and math calculations on your return, as these are the most common errors made by taxpayers. Additionally, I wish you many happy returns, as well.

Barry Lisak is an IRS Enrolled Agent, meaning that he has passed special U.S. Treasury Department exams that qualify him to represent clients dealing with audits or tax-resolution cases. Any questions can be directed to him at (516) TAX-SAVE, or

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