Look over last year's return.
Examining your previous return will help you recall what paperwork you need. If your return is missing, call the IRS (800-829-1040) and request a free transcript. It should be easy to retrieve if you used a tax preparer, attorney or software.
Make an appointment.
If you'll need a tax preparer, arrange to meet in two weeks to give yourself time to get organized. If you're doing the return on your own, schedule time to work on it and note it on your calendar.
Gather 2009 paperwork.
Go to organizit.hrblock.com to create a personalized checklist of the documents you need for your return. Check off the items as you locate them or receive them in the mail. You should have received everything by mid-February, but if you're missing a form, such as a W-2, contact your employer to request a copy. If you plan to file a paper return, pick up copies of IRS forms at your post office or library or download them at www.irs.gov. Purchase any software you need to file your taxes.
Find your receipts.
If you plan to itemize, review last year's return, your 2009 calendar and past credit card bills to jog your memory about possible deductions. Did you give to charity or take out a loan? If you're missing receipts, ask the groups or businesses to send them to you. Then organize the receipts by category and create an envelope for each: charity, medical expenses, etc.
Crunch the numbers.
With your papers organized, the hard part is done. Meet with your tax preparer or sit down at your computer or desk to input the information.
Mail off your return.
Check for common filing mistakes, then seal the envelope or click the send button.
Organize after you file.
Store tax forms, receipts and a copy of your return in a safe place. Buy a file or accordion folder and label a section for each month's receipts and important paperwork. Hold on to everything for 6 to 10 years.