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Last-minute tips for filing taxes

Wait till last minute? Time to file taxes is here

You've been meaning to get around to it for weeks and the moment of truth has arrived. Your income tax return needs to be filed electronically or postmarked by midnight Tuesday. Sure, you could file for an extension, but you have to pay your taxes by Tuesday anyway, so why drag out the torment? Here are some tips to help:

1 Get organized. Hunt down those W-2s and 1099s and the receipts supporting deductions before you start your return. If you need forms to file a paper return, print them out from www.irs.gov.

2 Get up to date. If you use tax software, download the latest update. If you prepare a paper return and you are affected by the alternative minimum tax or received a 1099 for mortgage debt forgiveness, do some research or get help to avoid paying too much in taxes since the rules on those changed. Also new this year: You need proof for every cash contribution to charity and you can deduct mortgage insurance if you took out a mortgage requiring it last year.

3 Look into filing for free. If you have a computer connected to the Internet, you can file electronically through IRS Free File if your adjusted gross income is less than $54,000. Go to www.irs.gov for a list of participating free-file companies and their requirements.

4 Report your Social Security. Even though it's not taxable, Social Security or VA disability payments could entitle you to a tax rebate if you don't qualify otherwise. The 1040 and 1040A forms include spots for total Social Security and taxable Social Security.

5 Check last year's return. It may remind you of deductions you've overlooked. Also check for carryovers from last year, such as capital losses and excess charitable contributions you weren't able to deduct previously.

6 Low-paying job? If you are between 25 and 65, you may qualify for the Earned Income Credit with income of up to $12,590 (if childless) to $39,783 (with two or more children). You can get the money even if you don't owe taxes.

7 Save for retirement. You have until Tuesday to make a 2007 IRA contribution of up to $4,000 if you are younger than 50 or $5,000 if you are 50 or older. Depending on your income, you may be eligible to deduct your contribution or get the retirement savings contribution credit.

8 Be precise. Names and Social Security numbers for everyone on your return should match Social Security records. Wrong information will delay your refund. Check your math. If you are doing a return on paper, get out the calculator and be sure you copied the right number from the tax table. Sign your return in the right spot (both spouses must sign if it's a joint return) and include all required forms.

9 Settle up. If the IRS owes you, have your refund direct deposited for the quickest turnaround. If you owe the IRS and can't pay, ask for an installment plan (Form 9465).

10 Request an extension if you need it. If you can't file on time, you can get an automatic six-month extension by filing Form 4868, by mail or electronically. You're expected to pay what you owe by Tuesday, but be sure to file a return or request an extension even if you can't pay.

Helen Huntley, Times
personal finance editor

Sources: IRS (www.irs.gov), CCH (www.cch.com) and Times research

Last-minute tips for filing taxes 04/12/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 12:31pm]
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