Would you like to handle the mechanics of preparing your 1982 income tax return like a pro? If you would, you have three options--and that does not include the method used by most people who prepare their own returns.

I don't have a valid study to support this opinion, but based on some experience and familiarity with tax returns, I think most people complete the final copy of their return--the one they send to the IRS--in pen from assorted working papers.

There are better ways.

If you have a microcomputer, you can buy a software package that will permit you to enter all the required data just by pushing a few buttons on the keyboard.

When you have all the basic information entered correctly--and you can check your entries on the monitor--the computer will make all the necessary calculations, including income-averaging if you qualify.

When that's done, punch another key and all the numbers will be printed onto IRS tax forms, with each figure entered on the proper line and in the proper column.

There are computer printers around that duplicate letter-quality typing pretty well, as opposed to the dot matrix type such as you find on a magazine subscription label. The IRS will take it either way.

Income tax software is available for all the popular microcomputers, such as the Apple II, TRS-80 and IBM Personal Computer. They have pretty straightforward names like "Tax Preparer" or "Plan 1040." Prices range from $50 to $150.

If you don't have a computer sitting around your house, then one of the two remaining options is for you.

You can take your worksheets and from them type the words and numbers on the various forms and schedules. This is the way you're likely to get your tax return done if you go to one of the large accounting firms--although they're starting to go to computer setups now.

Alternative number three is my preferred method and the way I prepare our tax return each year.

After you've collected your basic data and done some of the preliminary arithmetic, enter the required information on each form and schedule in pencil.

Using pencil permits you to make changes and corrections at any time. If you don't make a lot of erasures and new entries in the same spot, the original set may be all you need. If it gets too sloppy, however, use a new form--you want to end up with reasonably clean, legible originals.

When you're done, take pencil copy in hand and wander on down to your local copy store, commercial stationers, post office, bank or library--anyplace where you can have low-cost copies made.

Have one set of the completed federal forms reproduced for the IRS, and one set of the completed state forms made for your state tax office. In addition, have another copy made of any federal form or schedule required to go with your state return.

It isn't necessary to have copies made back-to-back even if the original forms are printed that way. For example, federal Schedule B is printed on the back of Schedule A--but you can make copies on separate sheets.

Some of the supporting schedules just have instructions on the back; don't bother paying to have those copied. But if there is space for data on the back, do include the page even if you have no data entered, so the IRS will know it wasn't inadvertently omitted.

The IRS and all three local tax jurisdictions will accept a mechanically reproduced tax return. However, make sure that you have printed all the information carefully and that the copies are clear and legible.

Most important: Your signature may not be a reproduction. Do not sign the pencil copy. Instead, place your original signature on the reproduced copy--the one you're sending in. Then attach all W-2s and your payment (if one is due) before placing the return in the envelope for mailing.