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It's Tax Day! Don't Forget to File
By Eileen Ambrose, April 15, 2014 09:13 AM
If you're rushing to get your taxes done before today's midnight deadline, take some comfort that you're not alone.
The Internal Revenue Service expects to receive about 35 million returns in the last week or so before the filing deadline.
At this point, the time for most moves to lessen your tax bite is long over, although even on this deadline day you may have one more opportunity.
It's still possible to make a 2013 contribution to a deductible individual retirement account. The most you can contribute is $5,500, or $6,500 if you're 50 and older. If you aren't covered by a retirement plan at work, you can deduct the full contribution no matter your income.
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If you are covered, you can deduct some or all of your contributions if you're single with income less than $69,000 or a married joint filer with income under $115,000.
Check with your financial institution about how long they will accept these last-minute contributions. Some are taking online contributions as late as 11:59 p.m.
"You want to make sure the financial institution knows that it is a 2013 contribution," says Jackie Perlman, principal tax research analyst with H&R Block's Tax Institute.
H&R Block has seen cases where the money management firm assumed the contribution is for the current year, she says.
The rest of today's tax strategy should be geared toward avoiding mistakes that can be costly.
Indeed, among the most common filing mistakes are wrong Social Security numbers, misspelled names or incorrect bank account numbers for those getting refunds directly deposited, the IRS says.
In your rush, the chances of making these errors likely go up.
"It is much better to request an extension than try to rush your return through full of mistakes," Perlman says.
You can get an automatic six-month extension - until Oct. 15 -- to file your return by filling out Form 4868. You can do so online using the IRS Free File no matter your income. You need to do this by midnight - or get hit by a hefty failure-to-file penalty.
If you file an extension with the IRS, some states also automatically grant an extension, Perlman says. Check with your state, though, because some require residents to file a separate form, she says.
More time to file doesn't mean more time to pay, however. To avoid a late-payment penalty, you must pay at least 90 percent of what you estimate you will owe. (Even if you meet that threshold, you'll still pay interest on any shortfall, which is now at an annualized rate of 3 percent.)
If you don't have money to pay your taxes, check out payment options with the IRS. After the financial crisis, the agency became more lenient on those struggling to pay taxes.
For instance, it streamlined its monthly installment plan and gave taxpayers an extra year to pay, says Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and TurboTax tax expert. This is available to those who owe up to $50,000, which can be paid over six years.
You can request an installment agreement using Form 9465 or use the online payment agreement.
The IRS also offers a short-term payment option for those who expect to be able to pay their tax tab within 120 days, says Mark Luscombe, a principal analyst with CCH, a provider of tax information. You'll still pay interest, however there are no fees for setting up the payment plan, he says.
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When filing, make sure you don't overlook some common deductions that expired at the end of last year, Greene-Lewis says.
These include a tuition and fee deduction for college classes, a $250 deduction for teachers buying school supplies out of their own pocket and the choice of deducting sales tax instead of state income taxes on your federal return.
Choosing to deduct sales taxes make sense for those who made a big purchase last year, such as a car, or who live in states where there is no income tax, such as Florida, Greene-Lewis says.
And for the rest of you who have already filed, give yourselves a pat on the back.
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