- Step 1: Clear your schedule Clear your schedule. This is no joke. Failure to file by the deadline could result in fines, penalties, and interest on taxes owed. If you’re due a refund, you could forfeit some or all of it. You’ve got to make time to get this done—today!
- Step 2: Gather your papers Locate any forms, statements, and receipts you think may be even remotely relevant to your income, expenses, and deductions. When in doubt, remember that it’s better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
- TIP: You can find a complete list of required documentation and other helpful tips at www.irs.gov.
- Step 3: Sign, seal, and deliver If you don’t want to file online, complete the necessary tax forms and get them, along with your check or checks for any taxes owed to the post office by midnight. Not all branches will be open late, so check with your local postmaster.
- TIP: The IRS offers a toll-free help line at 1-800-829-1040.
- Step 4: Embrace your computer If you want to avoid standing in line at a post office with 7,000 other last-minute losers, file your taxes online. Start by going to www.irs.gov and selecting one of their authorized e-file providers.
- TIP: Pick a software application that allows you to file your state return online as well. They expect to hear from you by the deadline, too.
- Step 5: Don’t take shortcuts If you encounter errors or red flags when entering your information, do not ignore them. If you can’t fix them on your own, you may have to pony up for some last-minute professional advice.
- TIP: Many of the online programs offer live advice from tax professionals through their help menus.
- Step 6: Get a stay of execution If you feel you can’t possibly get it all done today, file Form 4868 to request an extension of up to six months. But remember—even with an extension, you still must pay an estimate of any taxes you owe on April 15th. You’ll adjust this amount later once you’ve actually finished your taxes.
- Step 7: Rejoice Rejoice! You’ve dodged a bullet.
- FACT: Roughly a third of taxpayers put off filing until the two weeks before the April 15th deadline.
You Will Need
- Your tax documents
- A computer