Nine Stress-Relieving Tax Tips for Procrastinators
by Mar 31st 2011 9:00AM
If you think you'll need more time to prepare your federal income tax return this year, don't hesitate to request an extension. The IRS will grant an automatic six-month extension so long as you make the request by the due date of the return. This should give you plenty of time to pull together the rest of your documents and prepare your return. Remember, however, that an extension is an extension of the time to file, not the time to pay. You may need to make a payment with your extension in order to avoid an underpayment penalty.
2. Do a Little Bit at a Time
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, break up the task in smaller chunks. With a few days left, spend one day organizing your tax documents and make a note of any tax forms you might be missing. Spend a second day entering data in your tax software package or visiting your tax pro, but give yourself time to review your return. Review the return separately; wait at least a day if you can. It's easy to see what you want to see when you've been staring at the same numbers all day. Take a breath and put your return away and look it later with fresh eyes.
3. Take Advantage of Free Help
If you're having difficulty figuring out your tax return, consider asking for help. You may not even have to pay if you qualify for free tax assistance. Among the options for free help are free software packages and walk-in taxpayers assistance centers.
4. Keep the IRS Phone Number Handy
If you have last-minute tax questions, get the answer directly from the source: the IRS. Call (800) 829-1040 to talk with a tax representative. Remember, however, that many other taxpayers are likely trying to reach the IRS, too, so be patient and allow extra time.
5. Use a Good Software Package
I've met very few folks who like to do their own tax returns by hand. Since running the numbers (and figuring out those IRS worksheets) by hand can be difficult, consider using a tax software package. Many tax software packages use an interview style format to walk you through situations that might apply to you. Even better, most packages will calculate your tax or refund due.
6. Hire a Tax Pro
You can offload a lot of your tax worries by hiring a tax professional to assist you with your tax return. However, keep in mind that many tax professionals book appointments weeks in advance so don't expect to show up on April 18 and have your return prepared timely. Show up as early as you can manage and be prepared to be advised that an extension might be your best option.
7. Figure Out How to Get Your Return to the IRS
The rules for delivering your tax return to the IRS are quite specific -- pay attention to the requirements for timely delivery. If you plan to use a private delivery service, check in advance for the location of drop boxes and pick-up times. Similarly, you can search the USPS website for information about mailboxes, pick-up times for mail and post office hours at a site near you -- even better, plan ahead and have postage on hand so you won't have to wait in line on Tax Day.
8. Enjoy the Extra Few Days
Remember that you have a few more days than usual to get your return in to the IRS. Taxpayers have until April 18 to file their returns this year.
9. Try Out the Tax Freebies
When all is said and done, treat yourself. Each year, a number of major and local retailers offer freebies on Tax Day. Check back with WalletPop for details as Tax Day approaches.