DEAR HARRIETTE: It's tax time again, and I feel like an idiot. I know that every year we have to do taxes, but somehow I never get it together on time. So here we are again, and I have not done a single thing to get ready. In the past, I have basically just hidden in a sense, until the IRS came looking for me. I want to do better this year, even though I'm starting out late. What can I do? -- Afraid of Uncle Sam, Baltimore
DEAR AFRAID OF UNCLE SAM: Start by filing a request for an extension. This alerts the IRS that you know you are late and intend to get your papers in order and sent in. Since getting your taxes together is not your strong suit, I recommend you hire an accountant to help you. This service does not have to be expensive, but ultimately, it can save you time and money.
Gather up all of your papers -- a W-2 form if you have an employer, bank records, mortgage or rent bills, utility bills and any other bills or expenses you may have -- so that you are ready to present everything to an accountant. For a list of what you need to get ready, go to taxes.about.com/od/findataxpreparer/a/documents.htm.