Still haven’t prepared your taxes? Well, if it’s any consolation, you are not alone. The IRS reports that 20-25% of individual tax returns are filed in the final two weeks. With only a few days until April 15th, there is the chance that rushing through your return may lead to some costly mistakes. To help prevent that, here are simple steps to follow:
e-file. Gone are the days of waiting in the notoriously long “tax day” lines at the post office. Filing online is more than just convenient. It also reduces the likelihood of mistakes on your return, as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors, and prompts you for missing information. Best of all, it’s free! You can file electronically using e-file or IRS Free File.
Buy More Time. As long as you correctly complete and submit IRS Form 4868 by April 15th, you are granted an extension until October 15th. This simple procedure prevents late filing penalties. Remember: an extension only moves back the filing date. You still must pay any taxes you owe by April 15th.
Know Your Address. Different tax forms are assigned to different government offices. Make sure you send your return to the correct address to avoid processing delays or penalties by checking the instructions on your form or on IRS.gov.
Know Your Place. Make sure you use the correct column in the tax table to determine the amount you owe. Avoid confusion by using a ruler or piece of paper to block out the other columns from your line of sight.
Check, Then Check Again. Tax software catches and prevents many errors, which is one benefit of e-filing. Alternatively, math errors on hard copy returns are common. If you do take the latter route, double- and even triple-check your work.
Sign and Date the Return. This may sound obvious, but the IRS cites unsigned returns as one of the most common filing mistakes. If you forget your signature, the return is invalid, even if you e-file. Remember: if filing jointly, you and your spouse must both sign and date the return.
Include All Paperwork. You must attach all forms that reflect tax withholding—such as your W-2—to the front when submitting a return. If you are requesting a payment agreement, also include Form 9465 (Installment Agreement Request). All other necessary schedules and forms should be stapled in sequence based on the number in the upper right-hand corner.
Duplicate. Always keep a copy of your completed, signed tax return and related paperwork. This may come in handy down the road, as it is not uncommon, in certain situations, to refer to returns from previous years.
No matter the avenue you choose, the most important thing is that you submit your taxes, period. In the words of the IRS, “The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. So if you cannot pay all the taxes you owe, you should still file your tax return on time and pay as much as you can, then explore other payment options. The IRS will work with you.”
It’s never too early to start planning for next year’s filing. If there’s a chance you could owe for the 2014 tax year, start saving now. NVE’s Universal Club Account offers a disciplined savings program that allows you to make fixed, periodic deposits over a 12-month period.