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""It may feel like the new year just started, but tax season is already well underway.

With a bit of knowledge and preparation, you can keep cool and calm as you prepare for the April 19 tax deadline. (The federal filing deadline is April 18 in all states other than Massachusetts and Maine.) Whether you’re filing electronically or mailing in a traditional paper return, the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) guide to personal income tax can get you started.

Get Everything Ready

Preparation is half the battle. Before you sit down to start your taxes, follow DOR’s tips for a stress-free tax filing season:

  • Gather Your Records in Advance — Don’t start your return until you have all the necessary documents and information, which includes:
    • Paperwork — Collect all employment and income statements, such as Form W-2s, Form 1099s, and Schedule K-1s.
    • Social Security or Tax Identification Numbers — Have numbers for everyone listed on your return.
    • Bank Routing Numbers — Keep these on hand if you want to get your refund through direct deposit.
  • Look at This Year’s Changes — Don’t be caught by surprise. DOR has compiled a list of tax changes for 2015.
  • Consider E-Filing — DOR strongly recommends that you file and pay your taxes online. Electronic filing is processed quicker and allows you to receive your refund sooner.

Find the Right Form to File Taxes by Mail

If you choose to file a paper return, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some of the most common needs:

  • Proof of Healthcare — Use Schedule HC to provide proof of health insurance coverage. The Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law requires coverage for all state residents over age 18 who can afford it. Without it, you may incur tax penalties. DOR provides Schedule HC worksheets and instructions to help you fill out the form.
  • Personal Income Tax Return — If you are a full-time resident of Massachusetts, you are required to use Form 1. If you are a nonresident or part-year resident, you will need to use Form 1-NR/PY.
  • Fiduciary Income Tax ReturnForm 2 is required for income managed or received as a trustee, administrator, executor, guardian, conservator, or receiver of a trust or estate. For more information, see DOR’s 2015 Fiduciary and Partnership Tax Forms and Schedules.
  • Additional Income and Business Expenses — Use Schedules X and Y to report income not covered in your Form W-2 or Form 1099 (including alimony, gambling winnings, and taxable IRAs), or request deductions for business expenses.
  • Capital Gains and Losses, Interest, and Dividends — Use Schedule B. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines capital gains and losses as money lost or gained when selling something you own. Capital losses incurred when selling personal-use property — like your car or house — do not qualify for deductions.
  • Real Estate Rental and Royalties — Use Schedule E-1 to account for income and expenses for royalties and rental properties. Royalties can include income earned from copyrights, patents, and oil, gas, or mineral properties.
  • Senior Tax Credit — If you turned 65 before Jan. 1, 2016, you may be eligible for the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit. This credit applies to real estate taxes paid on your primary home, whether you rent or own it. Claim the credit using Schedule CB.
  • Motor Vehicle Sales or Use Tax Exemption — You may qualify for a motor vehicle sales-use tax exemption if you:
  • Changes After You File — If you finish and mail your taxes but later need to request an abatement or amend your return, look to Form CA-6.

For additional forms and information, visit DOR’s tax forms page. If you would like help or can’t find what you need, call DOR’s customer service line at (617) 887-6367 or call toll-free at (800) 392-6089. Call Center hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

File an Extension

If you are unable to file your tax returns before April 19, 2016, you can request a six-month extension. You can either file your extension electronically or use one of two forms:

  • Individual Resident or Nonresident — This covers most taxpayers. If you are filing a Form 1 or Form 1-NR/PY, use Form M-4868.
  • Fiduciary or Partnership — If you are filing a Form 2, 3, or 3M, then you should use Form M-8736.

These extensions apply only to your return — they do not extend the due date for any payments you may owe. In order to qualify for an extension, you must first pay any taxes due.

Determine the Correct Mailing Address for Returns and Payments

If you are mailing a paper return or payment, the address you send each form to depends on the form itself and whether or not you are using a 2-D barcode. DOR provides the full list of tax form mailing addresses.

Save yourself stress by taking care of your state taxes long before April 19.

Starting your taxes? Have questions? Let us know. Leave a comment below or tweet @MassGov.

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