The tax deadline is looming like a dark cloud over many. If you’re one of the many who have yet to file their taxes, ABC News has some advice for you. We recently posed an article on tax deductions for truck drivers, so be sure to check that out before you file.
By SUSANNA KIM
Less than one week away, the Internal Revenue Service’s April 17 tax deadline is quickly approaching, but don’t fear, her are 10 last-minute tips to help you file accurately and get the maximum refund.
|You can file for a six-month extension.|
Instead of ignoring the deadline, it’s best to apply for an extension of time to file. Keep in mind this is not an extension of time to pay.
“Don’t be afraid of an extension, filing for an extension is not necessarily an audit trigger,” Philadelphia tax attorney Kelly Phillips Erb said. “It’s better to file a complete, correct return than a messy, rushed return on time.”
Taxpayers will avoid stiff penalties if they file either a regular income tax return or a request for a tax-filing extension by this year’s April 17 deadline, ABC News’ Richard Davies reported.
|Pay something if not the full amount.|
The IRS advises you to file your return on time and pay as much as you can then, allowing you to cut down on interest charges. While you have to make “a payment” to the IRS on or by the April 17, that payment can be as little as $1. Pay that minimum, and you won’t have broken any rule. However, you will have to pay interest to the IRS on what you owe, plus any penalties. If you owe $25,000 or less (in combined tax, penalties and interest), you can get permission to pay in installments by filing Form 9465 and using the Online Payment Agreement (OPA).
Persons unable to pay their taxes because they are suffering or expect to suffer economic hardship can ask the Taxpayer Advocate Service to intervene on their behalf.
You can see the IRS’ other tips for taxpayers who can’t pay their taxes on time here.
|Gather relevant documents.|
If you haven’t already, it’s time to dust off the W-2 forms that your employer may have mailed you earlier this year and your year-end charitable statements from December for charitable deductions. Phillips suggests you have your tax return from 2010, relevant forms from your student loan lender, such as a Form 1098-E, or investment company for your interest earned, such as a form 1099-INT. Many of these forms are also available from these financial companies online once you log into your account.
Last year, 78 percent of taxpayers filed electronically, which the IRS calls the fastest and safest way to file your taxes, and that number is expected to increase this year. Not only do you get your refund faster, but you can have different payment options including paper check and credit card.
|Find the closest post office.|
In case you are among the 22 percent who do not e-file, it may be a good idea to find the location of the nearest post office and its business hours on April 17. If you’re not using the Post Office to file but instead are using a private delivery service, such as UPS and FedEx, make sure the IRS approves the service. Ask for dated proof of mailing and hang onto it for your records.
|Don’t gloss over the simple things.|
Don’t go on auto-pilot when you write your Social Security number and dependent’s name. Incorrect SSNs and misspelled dependent’s last names are among eight common tax-time avoidable errors, the IRS said. People also make mistakes for mathematical computations and choosing one of the five filing statuses, which include “single,” “married filing jointly” and “married filing separately.” Don’t forget to sign and date your return, which is also a common error.
|Avoid the “dirty dozen.”|
The IRS has a list of 12 tax scams to avoid, dubbed the “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams.” Make sure you’re not giving the appearance of attempting any. After the top scam of identity theft, the others include the abuse of charitable deductions, fraudulent tax preparers, and falsely inflating income and expenses, and creating a fake or misleading Form 1099 Original Issue Discount (OID), which is used to report taxable interest income from bonds, notes or other long-term debt instruments.