For the procrastinators among us -- well, for those of us who don’t prepare taxes for a living, of course -- the concerns of tax season probably didn’t take hold until recently.
Outside of the office, where there’s plenty of tax talk throughout the entire calendar year, it’s been only in the past week that I’ve begun to see or hear anyone talking taxes.
Just this past weekend, several of my friends mentioned that they couldn’t believe they only had a week left before they had to file -- none of them realized that due to a federal holiday in Washington, they actually had until April 17 to file. And those extra 48 hours can make all the difference to a procrastinator.
My sister, who moved to New York in 2006, had yet to even begin seriously contemplating her tax situation. In addition to the question of residency, she had a number of other tax considerations to face, including her own last semester of college expenses, a mishmash of employment gigs over the past 15 months and possible relocation and teaching expense credits to consider. My father must have spent at least eight hours sorting it out over the course of Saturday and Sunday -- and from the sounds of it, it wasn’t the sort of familial bonding either one of them enjoyed.
Meanwhile, back in the city, paperwork covers my living room as my roommate attempts to tackle her own taxes and I’ve overheard not one, not two, but three conversations over how best to claim this year’s one-time rebate on the telephone excise tax. I’ve overheard participants in those conversations offer up advice ranging from pretty much straightforward fraud, to flat-out wrong (speculating that the basic credit for individuals is $150, when it’s really $30).
At any rate, it’s nice to see that accordingly, the Internal Revenue Service has switched up its own messaging over the course of the last week. The agency’s releases are now drumming home the message of how to request an automatic six-month extension (meaning that a taxpayer wouldn’t have to file until Oct. 15, although they would have to estimate and pay any taxes they think they will owe now), and endlessly repeating many of the common-sense tax tips the agency extolled at the start of the filing season.
Among those tips, the IRS stresses that taxpayers should:
- Consider filing electronically instead of using paper tax forms, a method which has proven to reduce the numbers of errors in filings;
- Put all required Social Security numbers on the return;
- Double-check figures;
- Make sure to use the right figure from the tax table;
- Sign their form;
- Attach all required schedules;
- Make checks for any amount due out to the “United States Treasury,” with the proper information written on the check and with Form 1040-V, “Payment Voucher,” enclosed; and,
- Send their return, or request an extension, by the April filing deadline.
Admittedly, none of those tips are the equivalent of brain surgery, but in the rush of the last-minute, they are a checklist any procrastinator should quickly run through.As for myself, this year was an exception to my normal habits. Knowing that I had a refund coming, coupled with the offer of a discount on online tax prep software, was enough to make me reform my ways -- for this filing season, anyways.
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