Here are three words that can strike fear in the hearts of many Americans – tax filing season. That is, unless you’re expecting a big refund. If that’s the case, you may have already filed your tax return. But there are millions of taxpayers who have yet to begin this annual rite. Fortunately, they’ll have a little more time to complete their returns this year, thanks to two holidays. Although the filing deadline typically falls on April 15, that’s the same day that Emancipation Day will be celebrated in Washington, D.C., so the deadline has been pushed back to Monday, April 18. However, Massachusetts and Maine’s celebration of Patriot’s Day on April 18 means the deadline in those two states will be extended to April 19. The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, strongly recommends that taxpayers file their returns electronically, since it’s the fastest and safest way to do so. And the agency advises that refunds be received by direct deposit for the same reasons. More than nine out of 10 refunds will be issued in less than three weeks this year, according to the IRS. And if you’re looking for a freebie, take advantage of IRS Free File. The agency has partnered with companies that are offering free brand-name software to file federal returns. About 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $62,000 or less are eligible for this service, the IRS reports. One of the biggest steps in preparing your tax return is to assemble all your important documents, such as bank statements, W2s, receipts, and mortgage interest statements. To make it easier to keep track of what you need, make a checklist. Other steps you can take include:
- Find out in advance what credits and deductions you can take advantage of. This may take some research, but it will be well worth it if you end up saving a decent amount of money.
- Get professional help if you know your tax return is going to be more complicated than usual. Friends, neighbors, and family members can often recommend a trustworthy tax preparer.
- Use the IRS website – irs.gov – to help in preparing your tax return. The site is loaded with lots of pertinent information and has handy search tools, too, just in case you have a question or two. These tools include a search box at the top of the home page; Interactive Tax Assistant, which is accessible by clicking on “Find Answers to Your Tax Questions” under the Tools section near the top of the home page; and a new topic lookup tool called the IRS Tax Map, which can be accessed from the Interactive Tax Assistant home page.
- Give yourself plenty of time to complete the tax return; this will help you avoid making mistakes. And always be sure to double-check your return before filing it.