There’s still time to file your taxes

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH SKID­MORE SELL

If you woke up in a panic re­al­iz­ing that yes­ter­day was April 15, re­lax. You’ve got un­til Tues­day to file and pay your taxes with­out fac­ing a penalty.

April 15 fell on Sun­day this year and to­day is Eman­ci­pa­tion Day, a hol­i­day in Wash­ing­ton D.C. That gives tax­pay­ers na­tion­wide un­til April 17 to get the job done.

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 long-run 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

There are a num­ber of rea­sons to try to file your taxes sooner rather than later.

If you are due a re­fund, the sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get it. And fil­ing ear­lier in the sea­son gives you time to more care­fully pre­pare your re­turns and avoid er­rors.

But most im­por­tantly, fil­ing early helps cut down on the risk for iden­tity theft by es­sen­tially beat­ing the crim­i­nals to the punch. Once your re­turn is filed with the IRS, the in­for­ma­tion — most notably your So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber — is locked and can­not be used by any­one who might want to fraud­u­lently claim a tax re­fund. And iden­tity theft re­mains a com­mon prob­lem.

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