IRS: Rushing to file taxes can result in errors, use e-file, file extension if needed
WASHINGTON — As the April tax-filing deadline nears, many taxpayers may rush to finish their tax returns or find they need extra time to get them done.
The IRS recommends that taxpayers file for an extension if they need one. Filing an extension will help taxpayers avoid paying penalties for filing a late return. Extensions provide more time to file, but not more time to pay any tax owed.
The deadline to file 2018 individual tax returns and pay taxes owed is Monday, April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holidays on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019, to file their tax returns.
Mistakes can happen when hurrying to file a tax return by the due date. This can mean longer processing times and possible tax refund delays. Electronic filing is the best way to avoid common mistakes and file the most accurate tax return; it is also the most accurate way to file a tax return. The IRS estimates that about 70 percent of taxpayers can file their tax return at no charge by using IRS Free File software.
Follow these tips to avoid common tax-filing errors:
Prepare before you start. Gather all your documents such as Forms W-2 and 1099, gather your supporting tax deductions or credits such as state tax or mortgage interest payments. Find your prior-year tax return, you may need it. Make sure you have your dependents’ Social Security numbers. Because the standard deduction has increased this year, many taxpayers may determine itemizing deductions is no longer necessary.
File electronically. Filing electronically reduces common tax return errors. And, taxpayers who use software benefit because it does the calculations, flags possible mistakes and prompts taxpayers for missing information.
Double check bank routing and account numbers. Requesting direct deposit of a federal tax refund into one, two or even three accounts is convenient and allows the taxpayer access to their money faster. Make sure the financial institution routing and account numbers entered on the return are accurate. Incorrect numbers can cause a refund to be delayed or deposited into the wrong account.
Find adjusted gross income. Taxpayers who changed tax software products may be asked to enter their prior-year adjusted gross income as part of the electronic signature process. Taxpayers who did not retain a copy of their prior-year tax return may have to use Get Transcript Online or Get Transcript by Mail to obtain their prior-year AGI.
Keep a copy of the return. Taxpayers should make a copy of their signed tax return and all schedules and keep these records in a safe place. Tax returns should be retained for three to six years depending on the complexity.
Additionally, taxpayers who choose to file a paper return should remember the following:
For taxpayers who cannot meet the April deadline, requesting a filing extension is easy and will prevent late-filing penalties. Taxpayers who need more time to file should follow these tips:
Request a filing extension. The easiest way to file an extension is to use IRS Free File. All taxpayers are eligible to use Free File to file a Form 4868. Simply review the Free File extension offers and select the software program of choice.
Automatic extensions with payments. Other fast, free and easy ways to get an extension include using IRS Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by paying with a credit or debit card. There is no need to file a separate Form 4868 extension request when making an electronic payment and indicating it is for an extension. The IRS will automatically count it as an extension. But keep in mind that while an extension grants additional time to file, tax payments are still due by the April deadline.
Alternatively, taxpayers may file Form 4868, Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, electronically or by mail.
Do a ‘Paycheck Checkup.’ The IRS recommends that everyone do a paycheck checkup early in 2019. It is especially important for anyone with a tax bill when they file their return, but it’s also important for anyone whose refund is larger or smaller than expected. By changing withholding now, taxpayers can get the refund they want next year. For those who owe, boosting tax withholding early in 2019 is the best way to head off a tax bill a year from now. In addition, taxpayers should always check their withholding when a major life event occurs or when their income changes.