The tax-filing deadline is just around the corner. According to the Internal Revenue Service, 20 to 25 percent of all Americans wait until the last two weeks before Tax Day (now extended to May 17) to prepare their taxes. With these tax-filing tips and reminders, you can get through the process without too much stress.
File electronically. IRS e-file is safe, easy and the most-common way to file. E-file is now the norm, not the exception. In 2020, over 150 million people used e-file to transmit their returns. If you expect a tax refund, you'll get the money faster when you e-file, because the IRS processes electronic returns faster than paper ones.
Check all numbers. Carefully check Social Security numbers for each person listed. This includes you, your spouse, dependents and persons listed in relation to claims for Child and Dependent Care Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit. Missing, incorrect or illegible Social Security numbers can delay or reduce a tax refund.
Double-Check Your Figures. If you are filing a paper return, you should double-check that you have correctly figured the refund or balance due.
Check the Tax Tables. If you are filing a paper return, double-check that you have used the right figure from the tax table.
Contribute to Retirement Accounts: If you haven't made an IRA (deductible or non-deductible) or Roth IRA contribution for 2020, you have until May 17.
Sign Your Form. You must sign and date your return. Both spouses must sign a joint return, even if only one had income. Anyone paid to prepare a return must also sign it.
Mailing Your Return. If you are mailing your return, find the correct IRS center mailing address at www.irs.gov. Be sure to make a copy of the return and save all documentation used to file.
Use direct deposit. If you're expecting a refund, consider using direct deposit. It's the fastest way to get paid from the IRS, and there's no chance the check will get lost. Check your bank-routing and account numbers, as incorrect numbers can cause a refund to be delayed or deposited into the wrong account.
Mailing a Payment. People sending a payment should make the check payable to "United States Treasury" and should enclose it with the tax return or the Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, if used.
Electronic Payments. Electronic payment options are convenient, safe and secure methods for paying taxes. You can authorize an electronic funds withdrawal, or use a credit or a debit card.
Can't Pay the Taxes Due. If you owe taxes but can't pay the full amount by the deadline, file your tax return on time and pay as much as you can to avoid tax penalties and interest.
Extension to File. By the July due date, you should either file a return or request a six-month extension of time to file—IRS Form 4868. Remember, the extension of time is not an extension of time to pay.
The best tip for last-minute tax filers is to make a commitment to get started earlier next year!
Barry Lisak is an IRS Enrolled Agent, meaning that he has passed special U.S. Treasury Department exams that qualify him to represent clients dealing with audits or tax-resolution cases. Any questions can be directed to him at (516) TAX-SAVE, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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