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Tue Jan 17, 2017
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Last-Minute Tax Filing Tips

Last-Minute Tax Filing Tips

Source: Perry Lockhart

April 15 is ingrained in every adult American's mind as Uncle Sam's payday — the day when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expects taxpayers to pay their Federal income taxes. While Uncle Sam wouldn't mind an early payday, and even encourages it by sending out tax forms in January every year, millions of Americans wait until the last minute to file.

Last-minute tax preparation can be unnerving, however, if you're not sure what you need to do to file. Scrambling for W-2 statements, finding receipts, even locating the right form can cause you to miss payday, and Uncle Sam will penalize you for it. If you wait until the last minute, this is one time where you can't be sure that it will only take a minute.

If April 15 is fast approaching, and you haven't yet filed your tax return, you don't have to panic. With computer software, tax processing companies, and online e-filing, last-minute tax submission is not only possible, but it may also be stress-free, even uneventful. In fact, if you are really desperate, you can file an extension and delay payday for another four months.

If you want to file at the last minute, here are some tips to help you make Uncle Sam's payday deadline less painful.

  • Make sure your records are in order. Find and file W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, K-1s, and all other relevant receipts and documents. These documents are the basis for your tax return. You can't file without them.

  • If you aren't comfortable with figuring out and filing your own return, consider using a tax professional. Almost every military installation has a tax center that can help you file, many times for free. Professionals also will be up to date on the ever-changing tax laws, to ensure an error-free return.

  • Double-check your return. Check your math and all social security numbers — the two most common mistakes made, according to the IRS. Also, make sure you sign your return and attach all necessary forms and schedules before mailing it. Make a copy of everything for yourself and file it in a safe place.

  • Try e-filing. Through this avenue, even a last-minute return gets processed quickly. Your refund will be deposited electronically in a matter of days or weeks, as opposed to a paper-filed return, where the refund may not arrive for several weeks or a few months.

  • When all else fails, request an extension. By filing IRS Form 4868, you can get an automatic extension to August 15. Your request must be mailed or phoned in by midnight, April 15. Filing Form 4868 is an extension of time to file only, not to pay. You should estimate your tax liability and send in a check for the anticipated balance due with the extension to avoid additional penalties and interest.

  • If you are serving or have served in a combat zone, you have extra time to file your claim. Generally, you have 180 days after your last day in the combat zone to file without penalty.

  • If you need help preparing your return, call the IRS. They can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-829-1040 or on their web site.

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