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5 Last-Minute Tips for Beating the April 15 Tax Filing Deadline

5 Last-Minute Tips for Beating the April 15 Tax Filing Deadline

Ideally, we’d all keep perfect records all year long. By January 31, our tax documents would be in order and we’d start working on taxes with weeks or months to spare.

In the real world, it doesn’t work that way. We get busy and next thing we know, we’re staring at the April 15 filing deadline.

Never fear. You can still make the deadline.

Here are 5 last-minute tips for beating the April 15 tax filing deadline:

Make a list of questions and information you’re looking for

By making a list, you’re less likely to forget something. If you have a simple return and don’t itemize your deductions, the list may only include your W-2 forms, interest income statements, and a few other items.

If you have a small business, you sold assets, or you itemize deductions, you’ll have more information to gather such as receipts, Form 1099s and financial statements.

Go through the step-by-step interview

When you’re in a hurry, it’s tempting to hop around in your tax preparation program and just enter the information you have on hand. That could be an expensive mistake.

By letting the step-by-step interview be your guide, you make sure you get all the deductions and credits to which you are entitled. Otherwise, it’s too easy to miss valuable tax breaks like energy credits or the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

Consider making a contribution to an IRA or other retirement plan

You can make IRA and certain other contributions for the previous year right up to the April 15 deadline. TaxACT can calculate your maximum allowable retirement plan contributions for you.

Review your return

Always read through your return before e-filing. It’s the single best way to improve the accuracy of your return after it is prepared.

Avoid having your return rejected and refund delayed by double checking the spelling of all names, Social Security numbers and any bank account and routing numbers on your return. According to the IRS, these are some of the most common mistakes made on tax returns.

Reading your return also helps you understand your taxes so you can do better long-term tax planning.

It’s OK to file an extension

Now that you’ve put this much work into filing, perhaps you need one more receipt. Or you just feel rushed, and you’d like a little more time to review your return. You don’t need to explain.

Before you file for an extension, estimate your taxes in TaxACT. If you owe tax, you need to pay it with your extension by April 15 to avoid penalties and interest.

Even if you don’t owe anything, the more you do now, the easier it will be to finish your return before the October 15 extension filing deadline.

Was your tax return easier or harder to prepare this year than it was in previous years?

Photo credit: bitzcelt via photopin cc

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About Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and personal finance columnist and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills, Surviving a Financial Crisis (St. Martin's Griffin). She writes regularly at CreditCards.com, Bankrate.com, Interest.com, RedPlum, and MSN Money. She is an experienced speaker and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow Sally on Twitter.