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Tax Tip: Getting Started with Your Paperwork

David Sacks/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The countdown to Tax Day is underway, and while most people don't look forward to filing their taxes, organizing all the necessary documents before getting started can make the process less stressful.

Before you file your taxes, you want to make sure you have, "all your W-2s and 1099s, including the 1098 forms for mortgage interest," says tax accountant Janice Hayman.

But that's not all, she says.  Before you get started, you must put together, "all your sources of income from interest dividends any distribution from retirement accounts and of course earned income."  And make sure you have receipts for charitable contributions and anything else you may claim as deductions.

If you don't know where to start when gathering all your paperwork, Kathy Pickering of H&R Block says documents saved from past years can help.

"Look at your last year's return," she says.  "It's a great checklist to go through to say, 'Do I have all my documents?'"

If that sounds like a lot of work -- that's because it is.  The average time it should take most people to complete the entire process is about a day.

"The IRS gives a projection of around 24 hours as the compliance burden in filing your own federal tax return," says Bob Meighan of TurboTax.

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