By GRACE WYLER
With less than 24 hours before the IRS clock runs out, procrastinators are in a mad dash to get their tax returns in by the April 15 deadline.
But rushing through your taxes at the last minute can cause mistakes that could delay refunds and even cost you and your family thousands of dollars, said Mary Williams, a tax professional and marketing coordinator at H&R Block in Youngstown.
Williams urges those who have waited until the eleventh hour to relax.
“Don’t let this be as stressful as it seems to be,” she said. “Be thorough, make sure you take advantage of all tax breaks that apply to you.”
An easy way to avoid mistakes is to double-check your forms and review your record-keeping.
“Make sure your record-keeping is done correctly,” Williams said. “At the very least, you need to have your W-2 forms. A common mistake is people don’t have proper income documents, like the W-2.”
The W-2 form must be attached to the return if the person filing is a wage-earner, she added. A special set of records is needed for those who are self- employed.
And don’t forget to sign your forms.
The most-common mistake people make is forgetting to sign and date their tax returns, which can delay refunds, Williams said.
Even those who waited until the last minute to file should still make sure they investigate tax credits and deductions, she said.
Commonly overlooked tax credits include the new homebuyers’ tax credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which covers up to $2,500 of qualified tuition and fees or other higher-education expenses for students in the first four years of their college education.
Williams recommends using a tax service to ensure that you receive all possible tax credits.
“Even if you feel confident doing it on your own, I would recommend taking it to a tax professional,” she said. “A mistake on your tax credit could literally cost you thousands of dollars.”
If you cannot make the April 15 tax deadline, don’t panic, Williams said. But make sure you file for an extension, either online, by phone or by mail.
But tax payments are due Thursday, regardless of any extensions.
For those who cannot pay their tax bill, the IRS can help set up a payment plan, Williams said.
“It is my experience that they will work with you,” Williams said. “But ignoring the IRS doesn’t make them go away.”
10 LAST-MINUTE TIPS
With Tax Day fast approaching, here are 10 tips for those still working on their taxes:
Consider filing electronically using the Free File Fillable Forms or the Traditional Free File.
If you are filing paper tax- return forms, check the Social Security, or other identification, numbers for each person listed, including you, your spouse, dependents and those listed regarding claims for the Child Dependent Care Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit. Missing, incorrect and illegible Social Security numbers can delay or reduce tax refunds.
If you are filing paper tax- return forms, double-check that you have calculated the refund or balance correctly.
If you are using the Free File Fillable Forms or paper forms, be sure you have used the right figure from the tax table.
Make sure you sign and date your return. Both spouses must sign a joint return, even if only one partner had income. Also, anyone paid to prepare a return must sign it as well.
To mail your return, use the coded envelope included in your tax package.
If you are sending a payment, make the check out to “United States Treasury” and include the Social Security number of the first person listed on the return, as well as the tax year, the type of form filed and a daytime phone number. Enclose the check with the tax return or the Form 1040V Payment Voucher. Do not attach the check to any forms.
Consider making payments electronically. To pay your taxes electronically, you can authorize an electronic funds withdrawal from your bank account or use a credit or debit card.
By April 15, you should either file your tax return or request a filing extension. Remember that you must make any payments by April 15, regardless of any extensions.
For more information or to check the status of your refund after you file your return, visit www.irs.gov