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Managing the stress of taxes Special To The Star-news | Sat, Feb 12 2011 12:00 PM

Both individual tax- payers and small-business owners can find tax time a stressful season-and with good reason.

It's estimated that self-employed people spend about 57 hours each year complying with the tax code. That's time they could be spending growing their business or tending to their family.

According to the IRS, individual taxpayers can find return preparation so overwhelming that about 60 percent now pay preparers to do it for them. An additional 29 percent use tax software, with leading software packages costing $50 or more.

For many, just choosing the right accountant can be stressful. That's because, according to the Government Accountability Office, there are about 90,000 tax and accounting firms out there to choose from.

Fortunately, there are practical steps individual and small-business owners can take to reduce stress-and possibly their tax burden as well. Here are some tips:

¥ Don't put it off. According to the IRS, more than 10 million taxpayers procrastinate every year and end up filing a tax extension.

Misery may love company, but you don't have to keep putting off filing, particularly since there is a new online service that can help find the expert assistance that's right for you.

¥ The right expert can make a difference. According to the National Taxpayers Union, in 2007, nearly 37 million taxpayers forgot to claim a tax credit due to overwhelming tax regulation changes. Many taxpayers recognize that finding an accountant they can trust may actually save them money.

¥ Take advantage of the latest technology. Much in the same way that online services help consumers select movies to rent or a travel destination, there is a new online service designed to help taxpayers select the right accountant or tax preparer.

Called Teaspiller, the company also employs an individualized accountant reviews system. Maintained by the community itself, the reviews system ensures that both accountants and customers are matched based on a host of critical factors, including unique tax preparation needs, specific industry characteristics, location and size.

In addition, the service allows users to transfer essential tax files, conduct conversations with the accountant, file and securely exchange payment for fees-without ever stepping foot into a tax preparation office.

To learn more, visit the website at www.teaspiller.com.

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