Some timely tips for fil­ing in­come taxes at the last minute

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY SARAH SKID­MORE SELL As­so­ci­ated Press

If you woke up in a panic re­al­iz­ing that today is April 16, re­lax. You’ve got un­til Tues­day to file and pay your taxes with­out fac­ing a penalty.

April 15 was on Sun­day this year and Mon­day is Eman­ci­pa­tion Day, a hol­i­day in Washington, D.C. That gives tax­pay­ers naun­til April 17 to file.

Pro­cras­ti­na­tors can take some so­lace in know­ing that as of Fri­day 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans hadn’t filed their taxes, ac­cord­ing to the IRS. Still, this is no time to daw­dle; here are some tips for you last-minute fil­ers:

How to file

The IRS says that elec­tronic fil­ing is the best way to avoid com­mon mis­takes. That’s be­cause the soft­ware does the cal­cu­la­tions, flags com­mon er­rors and prompts tax­pay­ers to pro­vide miss­ing in­for­ma­tion.

It’s quicker than drop­ping some­thing in the mail. Plus, elec­tronic fil­ers typ­i­cally get their re­fund faster if due one.

You can use any elec­tronic fil­ing method you choose, but it’s worth not­ing that the IRS says about 70 per­cent of tax­pay­ers are el­i­gi­ble to file their tax re­turn at no charge by us­ing IRS Free File soft­ware. It can be ac­cessed at the IRS web­site at IRS.gov.

Take your time

Yes, it’s crunch time but try not to rush. Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA at Tur­boTax, said the most im­por­tant tip for en­ter­ing in­for­ma­tion is to take your time. One of the most com­mon mis­takes tax­pay­ers make when rush­ing is gath­er­ing in­cor­rect So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers for their chil­dren and spouses. Some even mis­spell their own names.

In­stead, care­fully gather and en­ter your So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber, in­come in­for­ma­tion and bank­ing in­for­ma­tion, if needed. It will take more time in the lon­grun to cor­rect your mis­takes and will de­lay any re­funds.

Seek help

Tele­phone calls to the IRS may have long wait times. Ditto if you try to go to some­where in per­son, such as a tax as­sis­tance cen­ter.

In­stead, the IRS web­site should be your first stop for find­ing an­swers to most ba­sic tax ques­tions. Pop­u­lar tax soft­ware providers have their own so­lu­tions too. Tur­boTax now of­fers live on-de­mand video to com­mu­ni­cate with a cre­den­tialed CPA or en­rolled agent who can an­swer your ques­tions.

Ask for more time

If you re­ally can’t get your tax re­turn done, seek an ex­ten­sion. But get­ting an ex­ten­sion only gives you more time to file your re­turn – you still have to pay what you owe now.

The IRS al­lows you to re­quest an au­to­matic six-month ex­ten­sion to file your re­turn when you pay on­line.

If you owe money and can­not pay im­me­di­ately, you can ask the IRS for in­stall­ment agree­ments when you file your taxes. That will al­low you to pay your tax debt over six years. You can also ask about other re­pay­ment meth­ods or for­give­ness by con­tact­ing the IRS.

Do bet­ter next time

If you are due a re­fund, the sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get it.

But most im­por­tantly, fil­ing early helps cut down on the risk for iden­tity theft. Once your re­turn is filed with the IRS, the in­for­ma­tion is locked and can­not be used by any­one who might want to fraud­u­lently claim a tax re­fund.

Ro­ge­lio V. So­lis / AP

Mon­day is a hol­i­day in Washington, giv­ing tax­pay­ers un­til Tues­day to file.

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