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You are here: Home Opinion Paula I. Bryant PAULA I. BRYANT: Tax day looms

PAULA I. BRYANT: Tax day looms

The dreaded day is next Tuesday. 

April 15 looms, and so does your tax return.

What? You haven’t done it yet?

Fear not!

The IRS says don’t panic. Tax-filing extensions are available to taxpayers who need more time to finish their returns. Remember, this is an extension of time to file; not an extension of time to pay. However, taxpayers who are having trouble paying what they owe may qualify for payment plans and other relief.

Either way, taxpayers will avoid stiff penalties if they file either a regular income tax return or a request for a tax-filing extension by Tuesday’s deadline. Taxpayers should file even if they can’t pay the full amount due. 

People who haven’t finished filling out their return can get an automatic six-month extension. The fastest and easiest way to get the extra time is through the Free File link on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an automatic tax-filing extension on Form 4868.

Filing this form gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file a return. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and also should pay any amount due.

By properly filing this form, a taxpayer will avoid the late-filing penalty, normally 5 percent per month based on the unpaid balance, that applies to returns filed after the deadline. In addition, any payment made with an extension request will reduce or eliminate interest and late-payment penalties that apply to payments made after April 15. The interest rate is currently 3 percent per year, compounded daily, and the late-payment penalty is normally 0.5 percent per month.

Besides Free File, taxpayers can choose to request an extension through a paid tax preparer, using tax-preparation software or by filing a paper Form 4868, available on IRS.gov. 

Of the more than 12 million extension forms received by the IRS last year, over 7 million were filed electronically.

As of March 28, the Internal Revenue Service had received 82 million returns through e-file, about 91 percent of returns filed this year. Only about 9 percent, 8.3 million returns, were filed on paper.

The IRS expects to receive about 148 million individual income tax returns this year and projects that 23 million returns will be on paper, down 7 percent from last year’s total of 25 million paper returns.

And perhaps you are one of those taxpayers who get more time to file without having to ask for it. These include:

Taxpayers abroad. U.S. citizens and resident aliens who live and work abroad, as well as members of the military on duty outside the U.S., have until June 16 to file. Tax payments are still due April 15.

 Members of the military and others serving in Afghanistan or other combat zone localities. Typically, taxpayers can wait until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due.  

 People affected by certain recent natural disasters.

But just in case procrastination is your problem, the National Society of Accountants offers these “Top 10 Things People Would Rather Do Than Taxes.”

 Clean out the garage (You might find some items to donate to earn a tax deduction or sell to help pay your taxes.)

 Balance your checkbook (You might find a bank error in your favor so you can pay your taxes. Or not!)

 Work out at the gym (If you are healthy you’ll live longer and can pay more taxes.)

 Scrub the kitchen floor (It’ll be so clean you won’t want to eat in there, saving you money so you can pay your taxes.)

 Surf the social media (The taxes won’t get done, but you’ll get some sympathy and read stories of people worse off than you.)

 Trim the bushes (If you throw out your back you can take advantage of the new healthcare bill to get it fixed for less. Or maybe that isn’t in the bill. . .)

 Take the kids on vacation for spring break (Well, maybe spring break is over by now. You might be glad if you took a family vacation.)

 Hire the kid next door to mow your lawn (You won’t be able to claim any tax credits, but it will give you time to think of other things you could be doing instead of doing your taxes.)

 Take your tax-deductible spouse out for dinner (OK, you won’t save any money doing that, but it will be fun. Be sure to order dessert.)

 Hire an accountant or professional tax preparer to do your taxes (That might be the best thing of all.)

Professional accountants and tax preparers can help. Give a local tax preparer a call today.

 

Happy news

Congratulations are in order this week for our favorite Virginia State Police Secretary Senior, “Colonel Amanda Elliott,” and her husband, Tommy, who are the proud parents of a blonde-haired, bright, blue-eyed beauty named Kendall Anne.

She came into this world Friday at 12:18 p.m. weighing 7 pounds and 12 ounces and measuring 21 inches long.

We already miss Amanda at the state police office, but we know the proud parents will enjoy the next few months loving on their precious baby girl who we hear already has daddy wrapped around her little finger.

Their fun is just beginning.

(And we’re getting old because we can remember when Amanda was born.)