Spring can inspire a renewed sense of confidence and optimism in do-it-yourself activities. For nearly 40 percent of Americans, this includes preparing and e-filing their own income tax return. Like most things DIY, following a few simple strategies can save you valuable time and money at tax time.

"First, gather all your tax forms and information, especially if you want to start and file your return in one fell swoop," says TaxAct Spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. "In addition to tax forms like W-2s, 1099s and 1098s, remember documentation related to income, investments and any expenses you think could be deductible. It's also a good idea to have a copy of last year's return for comparison."

When choosing your digital tax solution, carefully review the tax forms and situations covered. Although one brand may include the tax forms for homeowners and self-employed in its free or deluxe product, another may require you to upgrade to a pricey version for the same forms. Also take note of any fees for state returns.

If you're new to digital tax filing or switching brands, take a couple for a test drive. Paid solutions typically don't require payment until you file and some even allow you to try without creating an account. As part of your test drive, review the help resources. Most brands offer email, phone and chat but the tax and technical help in the program should be robust enough to answer most questions on the spot. Are the answers easy to find and easy to understand?

Regardless of the brand or product, take advantage of the interview and answer questions in the order they're asked. "The IRS doesn't tell you if you forgot to claim a refundable credit," says Dolmage, "but solutions like TaxAct will. The interview covers hundreds of credits and deductions in an efficient manner while checking your return for errors."

Once you've completed the interview and you are ready to file, print and review your return for these common mistakes:

  • Incorrect social security numbers.
  • Misspelled names. Be sure the names on your return appear exactly as they do on Social Security cards.
  • Forgotten dependents.
  • Inaccurate bank account and routing numbers for direct deposited refunds or electronic tax payments.

An easy way to avoid errors like these is to import last year's return. Top brands will import data the IRS requires to match last year's return, even if the return was prepared by another brand.

Additional tips for peace of mind

  • Start sooner rather than later. Rushing can lead to costly mistakes. DIY solutions save your information along the way so you can start and stop at any time. If you experienced major life changes last year, allow some extra time to make sure you reap all the associated tax benefits.
  • Delaying the inevitable because you owe? You can still file your return now and schedule electronic payment anytime by April 15.
  • E-file. It's the fastest, securest way to submit your tax return and you'll receive electronic confirmation when your IRS return is processed.
  • Choose direct deposit. With e-file, it's the fastest path to your refund. Otherwise, you may have to wait six to eight weeks for a check.
  • Need more time? File IRS Form 4868 by April 15 for an automatic six-month filing extension. Just be sure to pay any taxes due by April 15 to avoid late payment interest and penalties.

Find more tax tips at www.irs.gov. Learn about TaxAct and file your federal taxes at www.TaxAct.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 10 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer Details

February 15 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2017 Details

February 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 15 — All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2017, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 15 — Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-04 by this date to continue your exemption for another year Details

February 19 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) Details

February 28 — All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2017.

February 28 — Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2017. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to 03-31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains 01-31.

February 28 — All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2017. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to 03-31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains 01-31.

February 28 — Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to 03-31.

View More Tax Dates