It’s April, and you know what that means. Spring is in the air, the Easter Bunny is on his way and it’s almost time to file your federal income tax return. The Internal Revenue Service has provided an entire series of tax tips on their Website, covering everything from how to manage your tax records to what to what you need to know about refunds to all of the various ways to pay them what you owe. They’ve also posted a list of tips for last minute filers. We’ve boiled that down to a top five list (you can read the original list on the official IRS site).
First of all, here’s the really good news for all of us tax prep procrastinators. We have an additional two days to file this year, as the deadline has been moved from the traditional date of April 15th to Tuesday the 17th this year. If you need more time than that, you can file for an extension but be advised that an extension to file does not mean you have an extension to pay. If you believe that you’ll end up owing money to the IRS, you’ll need to include payment with your extension request. If you expect a refund, that’s even more reason to file on time!
Tip #1: eFile. It’s incredibly easy to file your return electronically, and it’s also incredibly secure. In fact, the vast majority (some 70%) of individuals now file their taxes online. You can find a list of “free file” companies on the IRS site, or use our H&R Block online offer to file for free.*
Tip #2: Double Check Everything. Incorrect Social Security ID Numbers, simple math errors and mistakes in reading the tax tables are all culprits that can cost you money or delay processing of your return (and hence, any refund). Be sure to double check everything, particularly if filing by paper. The tax software or online filing packages should check the math for you, but it’s a good idea to review the information as you go along anyway, and definitely go over the entire return with a fine-toothed comb if you’re mailing it in.
Tip #3: Making a payment? Use your credit card. If you end up owing taxes for 2011, you can pay by electronic funds withdrawal, or use a credit or a debit card to pay your bill. Like eFiling, it’s convenient, safe and secure. If you are mailing your payment instead, be sure to include the Form 1040-V Payment Voucher, and include your Social Security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and the type of form filed on your check.
Tip #4: Don’t forget to sign. Your return isn’t complete unless it’s signed and dated, and both spouses are required to sign a joint return, even if only one of them had income that year. Any paid preparer also has to sign.
Tip #5: Visit the IRS Website. There is a ton of excellent information on the IRS site. You’ll find advice, instructions, forms, and lots of other helpful information there. We’ve poked around ourselves, and it’s pretty easy to find what you need, whether you’re looking for a particular form, want to learn whether you’re eligible for a credit, or just need to know the current allowable mileage rate for business travel. It’s all right there at IRS.gov.