To avoid trying to do your taxes April 14, a day before the deadline, it's best to get an early start on taxes. Follow these tips to keep yourself on schedule.
No prize for being first: While advertising for tax services and accountants may start on Jan. 1, the IRS doesn't accept tax returns until Jan. 31. You can certainly prepare to file your taxes before then, but they will not be accepted by the IRS before that date. This date is later this year due to the government shut down in 2013.
Gather your materials early: Start organizing your W-2, 1099, 1098 and other forms as you receive them. You should receive most of these throughout the month of January. You - or a tax preparer - are not allowed to submit your tax returns to the IRS before you've received these forms.
Establish a plan: Months before the tax deadline -- in January or February -- decide how you are going to handle your taxes this year, whether you will do them yourself, hire a tax preparer, purchase software or use an online service. This will help you determine how much time preparing your taxes will take.
Hire a tax preparer: Spend the first couple of months of the year researching who you want to hire to prepare your taxes. Find out when they need you to submit your tax materials and what timeline you can expect.