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Racing the Clock: How to Beat the Tax Extension Filing Deadline

How to Beat the Tax Extension Filing Deadline - TaxAct Blog

(Updated for tax year 2016.)

We’ve all had good reasons for putting off doing our tax returns at one time or another. We were waiting for additional tax information. We weren’t sure how to handle a tax situation. The task seemed too daunting, or we never found the time to quite finish up.

Whatever the reason, now is the time to stop procrastinating because we need to file our returns before the tax filing extension deadline runs out on Oct. 16.

Follow these steps to beat the deadline now:

Find your blocking issues

If you set your taxes aside in April, or earlier, it can be difficult to even remember what kept you from filing last spring. Here are some ways to quickly jog your memory:

  • Look at your tax notes. As you prepare your tax return, you should keep notes on paper or on your computer about how you determined the information you enter on your return. Your notes should have a running list of information you still need to prepare your return, or questions you still have.
  • Read your return. If your return is almost complete, read it from front to back. You may not understand every line, but you should know where your income is reported and which deductions and credits you were allowed. If you didn’t get a deduction or credit you expected, see if you needed to answer one or more additional question(s) to get the tax benefits you deserve.
  • Use the Review section of TaxAct to find problem areas and missing information.
  • Look at the previous year’s return. It can help you remember items for this year’s return. Make sure carryovers, depreciation and other items are properly carried from one return to the next.

Allow time to request and receive missing information

If you’re missing information, such as a partnership K-1 form or a corrected Form W-2, you’re dependent on someone else to get it to you.

Be sure to request this information in time to receive it as far before the tax extension deadline as possible.

Don’t forget to keep receipts

Keeping good records is essential to getting all your tax deductions, and being prepared for an audit, should need arise. With that said, if you know you had expenses but you can’t produce proof of every dollar spent, you can make reasonable estimates under the so-called Cohan Rule.

If you are ever challenged, you will need to convince the IRS that you made the expenditures, even without records.

In the event you later find receipts you missed, you can file an amended return. The important thing is to get that return filed as soon as possible– before you have to pay the penalty for late filing.

Review your return — again

No matter how rushed you are, be sure to read and review your return a final time before you file. It’s a lot easier to find and fix something now rather than later.

If you miss a valuable deduction, you may never get another chance to find it. If you make a mistake, the IRS will notice.

For example, if you forget to enter income reported to you on a Form 1099 or W-2, you could get notices from the IRS and possibly have to pay penalties and interest.

Remember to go through the Review section of TaxAct one more time as well. T TaxAct’sReview section is designed to help identify areas of your return with incomplete information and potential problems.

Read your return.

Some people find it helpful to print their return and read the hard copy before they file. You should always save a printed copy of your return when you are satisfied with it, as well.

Ready, set, file!

If you file electronically you can transmit your return up to midnight on Oct. 15, and still meet the deadline. You’ll save yourself stress, however, if you file well before the clock strikes 12. Any problem with your online connection, or even a power failure, could cause you to file late.

If you file by mail, you’ll want to get your return postmarked by Oct. 15. That may mean waiting in line at the post office for the last mail pickup.

On April 15, many post offices stay open later to collect tax returns – sometimes up to midnight –but don’t count on the same services on Oct. 15. Make sure you know when the last mail pickup is in your area.

If you owe money with your return and you plan to pay using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System® tax payment service, don’t wait until the last minute.

If you’re not signed up already, allow five to seven business days to after the IRS has validated your information to get signed up and receive your PIN in the mail. If you are signed up, be sure to submit your payment by 8 p.m. of the day before it’s due.

TaxAct makes preparing and filing your taxes quick, easy and affordable so you get your maximum refund. It’s the best deal in tax. Start free now or sign into your TaxAct Account.
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,,, RedPlum, and MSN Money. She is an experienced speaker and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow Sally on Twitter.

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