Because 2019 was the first tax year affected by the massive 2018 overhaul, many filers found themselves overwhelmed and stressed during this past tax season. If you'd rather the upcoming tax season go a lot smoother, it's important to prepare for it in advance. While you may not have taxes on the brain this early in the year, you should know that the deadline to submit your return to the IRS is Wednesday, April 15.

Keep in mind that the tax deadline doesn't always land precisely on April 15. If that date falls out on a weekend, or if it coincides with a holiday, it can be pushed back a day or two. But since there's no such conflict in 2020, the normal April 15 deadline will apply. With that said, here are a few things you can do now to make the process of filing your 2019 tax return a lot easier on yourself.

Tax Form 1040 on a keyboard


1. Gather all of your paperwork

The tax forms you typically receive each year, like your W-2 from work or 1099s, typically won't be available until later in the month. But that doesn't mean you can't sort through your own paperwork and pull out the documents you'll need for tax purposes.

If you plan to itemize your deductions this year, for example, then you'll need to compile receipts for charitable donations and medical expenses you incurred in the course of 2019. You can also dig up your property tax bills to see how much you paid, as that will dictate what your SALT deduction looks like.

2. Find yourself a tax preparer

If you struggled to complete your tax return last year, the last thing you want is a repeat. And the sooner you line up a tax professional to complete your return, the greater your chances of not having to settle for any old person due to a lack of availability.

In the coming weeks, reach out to friends, neighbors, and colleagues for recommendations on tax preparers they're satisfied with. That way, you have some time to gather quotes, compare fees, and decide who will be doing your taxes closer to April.

3. Devise a plan for paying the IRS

There's a good chance you won't owe the IRS money this year. But what if you do? Do you have a savings account you can tap to make up for an underpayment? Or another means of getting that cash? If you owed money on your taxes last year, and you didn't subsequently adjust your withholding to have more money removed from your paychecks, then there's a good chance you'll land in that boat again, so figure out what you'll do if that scenario comes to be. And if you're certain you won't have the option to raid a savings account, start cutting back on expenses in your budget immediately so that you're able to sock away some cash in time for April 15, which is when any tax underpayment is due, along with your return.

Though you may not be quite ready to think about taxes this early on in 2020, a little advanced planning on your part could save you a world of hassle down the line. If you spend some time thinking about taxes in the coming weeks, you'll have less stress as the April 15 deadline slowly but surely gets closer.