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Last-minute tax filers, beware: The IRS is waiting

Colleen Jenkins, a greeter for Liberty Tax Service in Tampa, waves at passing traffic on Wednesday.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Colleen Jenkins, a greeter for Liberty Tax Service in Tampa, waves at passing traffic on Wednesday.

You tried to ignore it, but it's nearly here anyway: tax day. For those still puttering with piles of paperwork, you've got until midnight Wednesday to file your taxes with the Internal Revenue Service or get an extension. Here's some advice for last-minute filers:

The basics

Find the right forms.

Get the forms you need online at www.irs.gov. If you have tax-related questions, you can call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1040.

Get your return postmarked on time.

Go to www.usps.com to find the location and hours of a post office near you, or call toll-free 1-800-ASK-USPS (275-8777). The post office near Tampa International Airport, at 5201 W Spruce St., is open until 11:58 p.m.

Avoid post office lines by filing electronically.

Free electronic filing is available to those with a 2008 adjusted gross income of $56,000 or less, and others can e-file for a fee. You can find instructions on e-filing on the IRS Web site.

Even if you e-file, leave yourself time for last-minute glitches.

E-filing traffic is expected to be high Wednesday and could slow you down. E-filed returns can also be rejected. If your return is rejected, you will need enough time to print, sign and mail it by midnight Wednesday.

Leave time for double checking.

Nora Whitehead, manager and tax professional at H&R Block's Seffner office, said taxpayers rushing to complete the forms often make mistakes. You could miss valuable tax credits if you're rushing. One common mistake: forgetting to sign your return. If you're married and filing jointly, you both need to sign it.

Consider a pro.

Even at the last minute, you can still find professional help. Check out hrblock.com to find locations in your area that accept walk-ins and last-minute appointments.

File on time, even if you can't pay.

The penalties are much higher for not filing than for not paying. If you don't file, penalties are 5 percent a month of any unpaid balance. If you file a valid return or file a valid application for an extension, the penalty for failure to pay is 0.5 percent a month of any unpaid balance.

Get an extension.

Fill out IRS Form 4868 to apply for a six-month extension. The IRS allows anyone, regardless of income, to electronically file for an extension for free. Remember, even if you file late you must pay on time or face penalties and fees on top of any unpaid balance. H&R Block recommends paying at least 90 percent of the estimated taxes owed when filing for an extension.

Request an installment plan.

Installment plans have been popular this year with taxpayers who just don't have the cash, Whitehead said. Taxpayers who owe less than $25,000 in taxes and can't pay may apply for an online installment agreement using Form 9465. Whitehead recommends paying some amount up front while trying to work out the details of a payment plan.

Don't wait

If you're running late, don't panic

Last-minute tax filers, beware: The IRS is waiting 04/12/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 1:37pm]
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