Tax filing deadlines can creep up on you, and there’s nothing more frustrating than scrambling as the date approaches. In other words, don’t wait until April to start thinking about your taxes. Avoid the stress of tax season by preparing now. To keep things smooth and organized this year, ask yourself the following questions as you start the filing process.

Will you be using a tax professional or an at-home software?

Make sure you do your research on what option is best for you. Working with a tax professional may save you time and money in the long term if you’re self-employed, work freelance, or have a complex tax situation. If you decide to work with a tax preparer, make sure you do your due diligence and find a professional with credentials recognized by the IRS. You can use the IRS tax return preparers’ directory to find qualified preparers in your area.

Do you have all the documents and information you’ll need?

Gather the documents that you’ll need and ensure that they’re in a safe place until you’re ready to file. Documents and information that you may need include:

  • Dates of birth and social security numbers of those covered in your tax return—this can include your spouse and any dependents you may have
  • Forms showing earned income, such as  W-2 and 1099 forms
  • Self-employment and business records
  • Last year’s federal and state tax returns
  • Bank account and routing numbers to set up a direct deposit for your refund

If you have questions about the different forms, visit the IRS for more information.

Do you qualify for deductions and credits?

The government provides several ways to lower your tax burden through deductions and credits. Be sure to review the complete list of deduction and credit opportunities here to see what you may be eligible for and what records you’ll need. Here are a few examples of what you can receive credit for:

  • Electric vehicles
  • Childcare costs
  • Charitable donations
  • Medical and dental costs
  • Education expenses
  • Taxes paid with your vehicle registration
  • Real estate taxes

Gathering all of this information before you file your return may take some time, but it ensures you have everything you need to claim tax deductions and credits available to you. Tax season can be overwhelming, but the sooner you start preparing, the better off you’ll be on tax day.