Tax season 2012: tips and tricks

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The click of the calculator, the smell of freshly printed ink, the feeling of stress creeping into your tense shoulders: yes, tax season is here.

Although not much has changed this year as far as regulations, there are a few things you will not want to miss.

CPA Orville Petersen said there are two federal changes to watch out for. The first: the IRS will require those with foreign assets offshore will have to fill out a whole new form.

"And it's very, very important that they do that because the penalties are huge," said Petersen. "It can be $10,000 for each account not disclosed to the IRS."

The IRS will also take a hard look at the earned income tax credit, which is available for lower income tax payers.

"Making sure that preparers especially ask all the right questions and make sure that anybody who's claiming that credit is truly qualified for that credit," said Petersen.

H&R Block district manager Reggie Wall talked about the biggest mistakes he sees made on the forms.

Many people just listen to their friends' advice without checking on the IRS website themselves, he explained.

"They're not sure how to apply the different rules," said Wall. "That's really the biggest issue. They think they know, but they don't, and that's kind of scary."

In the digital age, many like to take care of taxes online.

H&R will file your federal form online for free, though you will be charged if you want to file other forms like for your state.

Additionally, the company recently launched a new program -- Block Live -- that gives clients a face to work with over the web.

"If they have a camera on their computer, we walk them through what we're doing, and it's no different from them coming in the office," said Wall. "The difference is they're at home and they're comfortable."

Petersen says using online programs like Turbo Tax is okay, as long as you have simple forms. He said they're only as good as the information you put into them.

But for those with more complicated taxes?

"If you're a sole proprietor, or have rental properties, or anything the requires a little bit of interpretation, it definitely helps to have a tax preparer," said Petersen.

Of course, apps on your smart phone can also streamline the process. H&R Block, Turbo Tax and Jackson Hewitt all have iPhone and Android apps, and all of them are free to download.

This year we have a few extra days to file. The deadline is Tuesday, April 17.

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