With just a few days to go until the April 15 tax-filing deadline, people who have not yet done their taxes may think they are doomed. But you still have time to save money on your taxes if you’re smart.
Here are some last-minute tax tips for procrastinators.
Get an extension. If you truly can’t have your taxes done properly on time, don’t do them. You can get a six-month extension just by filing form 4868, giving you until Oct. 15 to file. If you owe money, however, you need to send the payment in by April 15.
File your taxes for free. Don’t rush out to buy tax software until you make sure you can’t use free online programs. The IRS Free File program works with commercial tax software companies to create free online filing tools for taxpayers with low and moderate incomes. If you earn more than $64,000 a year or otherwise don’t qualify for the free filing programs, you can still file your federal income tax return online using free forms.
If you’ve never taken advantage of the many free tax-filing options out there, you could be missing out. There are several free – or low cost – options available that will not only save you a few bucks, but will help simplify the process as well. Note: Some free services aren’t available to homeowners or other taxpayers with itemized deductions.
The IRS offers Free File, a service that allows people earning $66,000 or less to choose from a variety of online tax software options. The Free File Alliance, as it’s called, is a partnership between the IRS and 12 independent software providers. Some of these free software programs have a lower income limit or an age requirement – choose the program that best fits your needs.
Some participating Free File companies offer free state tax prep and e-file. Those with higher incomes can file free online using the free fillable forms. Users choose from among the participating software offerings, file their returns electronically, and receive their refunds via direct deposit.
Beyond the IRS, those within the same income limit of $66,000 can turn to MyFreeTaxes.com, which is offered by the Walmart Foundation, Goodwill Industries, the National Disability Institute and United Way Worldwide. The free service covers both federal and state taxes.
The major commercial tax companies are also getting in on the free offerings, but you might have to shell out a few bucks for state filing or other advanced services. TurboTax’s Federal Free Edition offers a live on-screen help function if you need an expert to walk you through the process.
Taxact.com is offering free federal and state tax returns for those filing simple 1040 EZ/A returns. For around $60, you can get the “premium” packing, filing more complex, itemized federal and state taxes with free phone support.
All in all, these do-it-yourself online tax filing options will offer big-time savings if you’re used to paying a tax pro to handle all of your paperwork. Better still, the sites make filing a painless, step-by-step process, which is why more and more people are logging in to settle up with the IRS.
If you prefer to handle your taxes the old fashioned way, you may also be eligible for free in-person help with tax preparation. The IRS funds free tax preparation help in conjunction with AARP, local community groups and its own Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to taxpayers who meet income or age guidelines.
Open or contribute to an IRA. You can make 2018 contributions to a regular or Roth IRA, Coverdell plan or SEP through April 15. If you still need to open an account, be warned that some companies’ processes are not instantaneous.
Pay by credit card (but only if you have to). You want to pay what you owe by April 15. If you can’t scrape up the cash, the IRS does take credit cards, but you’ll have to pay a fee to use them. If you face a large tax bill, you can ask the IRS for a payment plan or an installment agreement.
Check on your refund. If you’re already filed your taxes and wonder where it is, you can track it at IRS Where’s My Refund?
Get professional help if you need it. If you owe a large tax bill you can’t pay, did a short sale or lost a home to foreclosure, incurred lots of medical bills, lost money in a business venture or otherwise have a complicated tax life, file for an extension and then find a good tax professional to handle your return. Their expertise can save you money and stress.
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