It’s that time of year.
The deadline for filing an income tax return is just days away.
But unlike most years, people will have two extra days to file. Since the April 15 deadline falls on a Sunday and there’s a holiday on Monday in Washington DC, the return deadline is pushed back to Tuesday.
So for those who still need to file, don’t panic. You’re not alone, as the Internal Revenue Service reports on average 20 to 25 percent of all filers do so during the last week before the deadline. But don’t put it off either.
First thing filers should do is get all of their tax related documents together, such as W-2s and previous returns, said Kathy Warblow of Jackson Hewitt. Any major life changes need to be considered, such as marriage, having a child or taking care of an aging parent.
“They should make sure their tax preparer uses IRS E-File to submit a return,” Warblow said.
E-File is the free online filing system for tax returns for those with earnings of less than $57,000. In New York State most returns are required by law to be filed online in some form.
People don’t have to be a tax expert or a computer expert to use the program. There are commercial software companies that either have their own or participate in the Free File program, offering user-friendly and secure online programs. Experts say it’s the fastest and most accurate way to file. It also includes a confirmation of receipt.
“When eligible taxpayers use Free File, aimed at helping lower and moderate-income New Yorkers, they also learn about important credits and deductions they might be eligible for, such as the earned income tax credit,” state Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas Mattox said in a statement. “Here’s an opportunity to save money, and make the filing process easier.”
Warblow said filers should find out if they will end up owing money instead of receiving a refund. The quickest and surest way to find out would be to contact a tax preparer, Warblow said.
There are also extensions for filing. People can file for an extension until Oct. 15, but that does not apply with paying if a person owes the IRS. As soon as a person files and they owe money, the interest clock starts running on April 17. That includes if they file in October.
Still, because the penalty fees for filing late are so much more than fees for paying late, Warblow said it’s better to file and pay later. The IRS offers payment options, such as an installment agreement and debit or credit cards.
But, most preparers encourage clients to find other avenues to pay, Warblow said. That’s because the IRS payment plan comes with an additional charge and interest occurs on the unpaid balance.
Many tax preparers, such as Jackson Hewitt, will have extended hours leading up to Tuesday’s 11:59 p.m. deadline.
“When you rush to finish something, mistakes can happen,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. “In the case of a tax return, mistakes, or even oversights on valuable tax breaks, can cost you money.”
Warblow said a few years ago on an April 15 at her office a very late filer tried to get their return in with minutes to spare.
“We were cleaning up, we weren’t open,” she said. “But this client came and knocked on our door at 11:50 p.m. at night. He thought he had to file an extension, but he had all his paperwork and we got him in by midnight. So, it does happen.”