Get Prepped for Tax Season and Reap Rewards

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It's a vow many people make every year: Don't leave taxes until the last minute.

Mellody Hobson, "Good Morning America's" personal finance contributor, recently offered advice on how to follow through on that promise and get your financial act together.

For starters, there's some good news this year: Americans have two extra days to file their taxes. The deadline is Tuesday, April 17.

"Taxpayers have been granted the extra two days, not because of the good graces of the IRS, but because April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. We are not going to see a late tax deadline like this one until 2011," Hobson explained.

Two Tips to Keep in Mind

Hobson said to keep in mind two key things when gathering your documents.

"First, it is likely your 1099 form -- the document you receive from your bank or brokerage or mutual fund company, which shows how much interest or dividend income you earned in 2006 -- could be late this year," Hobson said.

"Thanks to a new law which requires financial services companies to do some extra work and reporting, there is a chance you may not even have the form yet. Call your brokerage company to inquire if you are still without it. By law, the form has to be mailed by Feb. 20."

Second, find out if you can get a rebate on your phone bill.

"Have you ever noticed all the taxes added on to your phone bill? Well, one of those taxes -- the federal excise tax -- was enacted to help pay for the Spanish-American war. The war ended in 1898, but the tax lived on until August of 2006. Now the government is offering a rebate for the money you paid between February 2003 and Aug. 1, 2006," Hobson said.

If you paid a phone bill in 2006, you're eligible for the rebate. However, you may need to do some work to get it.

"You need to round up all of your old telephone bills to add up the amount you paid over the 41-month period," Hobson said. "The good news, most telecom companies allow you to view your bills online free of charge and have information posted on their Web sites about the FET and how to add up your bills."

If you don't want to go through the extra work, the IRS is offering a standard rebate amount, which, depending on your circumstances, could be between $30 and $60.

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management in Chicago (www.arielmutualfunds.com) is "Good Morning America's" personal finance expert.

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