April 18, 2024

Bucks: Last-Minute Tax Tips for Procrastinators

If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you have plenty of company: The Internal Revenue Service says as many as 25 percent of filers do so in the final two weeks before the deadline.

Bob Meighan, vice president of consumer advocacy at TurboTax, spoke with me recently and offered some tips on making the most of the time left. The good news for procrastinators is that they have an extra three days to get the job done because the I.R.S. moved the deadline to April 18 from the traditional April 15, due to a holiday in the District of Columbia.

First, he says, start with the (obvious) basics: Gather records you need, like W-2 forms and interest statements — whether in electronic or paper form — so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Next, not surprisingly for a tax software executive, Mr. Meighan recommends preparing and filing your return electronically, since you can file at the last minute without going to the post office to get proof that you mailed it. Even if you hit the “submit” button just before midnight on April 18 and the I.R.S. rejects your return for some reason, the agency gives you several days to resubmit it and still be on time.

You might not even have to shell out cash for tax-preparation software. Turbotax.com and other online tax preparers offer free federal return preparation and filing for those using simple forms like 1040EZ (though there’s often a charge for filing an accompanying state return, if you need one). And those with incomes of less than $58,000 may be able to use the I.R.S.’s Free File option, in which taxpayers use online software donated by TurboTax and others, like TaxAct and TaxSlayer, to prepare their returns.

Keep in mind, though, as Mr. Meighan notes, that if you are taking the homebuyer credit for a house purchased in 2010, you can’t file electronically because you have to submit your closing statement as documentation.

Some other tax credit-related issues have caused some confusion this year, Mr. Meighan adds. The I.R.S. was late in updating its computer systems, so many filers who had claimed the first-time homebuyer credit in 2008, and are beginning to pay it back, experienced delays in receiving their refunds.

(The I.R.S. offers some tips for those who haven’t filed yet, and who will begin repaying the homebuyer credit, to help things go smoothly.)

Some filers also have been confused about the Making Work Pay credit, which totals $400 for individuals and $800 for couples. Most workers have received the credit in the form of lower paycheck withholdings during 2010, but they must account for it by filing Form M. Tax preparation software walks filers through the form, Mr. Meighan notes.

If you think you can’t get your taxes done by April 18, you can get a six-month extension by filing Form 4868. The catch is that while the extension gives you more time to file, you are not allowed any additional time to pay any taxes you owe.

So if you think you’ll have to write Uncle Sam a check, you still have to pay by April 18 — or risk penalties and interest on the amount you owe. To get an estimate of what you owe, you generally have to do a dry run of your tax return—which probably means you will have almost everything you need to file anyway. “If they’re 90 percent done, it’s really in their best interests to just get it done and file,” by April 18, Mr. Meighan advises.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=42b12ea07b532c1a88fa344435c1a73a

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