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According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), about one-third of Americans wait until the last minute to file their federal taxes. If that’s you, don’t panic. The deadline to file your tax return is Monday, April 18 thanks to the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., on April 15. With a few extra days to file, we’ve asked Robin and Stephen, two of our top Tax Experts on JustAnswer, to share some last minute tips.
What’s the most common mistake you see people make?
Robin: Not checking to make certain their returns were actually e-filed. Haste can make you miss a step in the e-file process. It is always important to go back and confirm that the return was accepted. Take your time and complete each step in the process. Make sure to check your e-file provider site and confirm the return was sent and accepted.
What’s the fastest way to file?
Robin: E-file is the fastest way to file. However, make sure you have completed all your information prior to e-filing. Once you’ve filed online, the return cannot be cancelled and if you’ve omitted information, you would have to amend. The IRS.gov website has a list of e-file options to choose from.
What are some tax credits that people overlook?
Stephen: Here are a few that are worth a look to see if you’re qualified:
- There are two education credits available, the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must meet all of the requirements and complete Form 8863 to see if you qualify or to claim the Education Credits.
- If you are 65 or over before January 1, 2016 and a resident of Massachusetts, you may be eligible to claim a refundable Senior “Circuit Breaker” tax credit against your personal income taxes for the rent or real estate taxes you paid on your principal residence. The maximum credit allowed this year is $1,070.
- The Saver’s Credit is in addition to other tax savings you get if you set aside money for retirement. For example, you may also be able to deduct your contributions to a traditional IRA. The Saver’s Credit is worth up to $4,000 if you file a joint return, $2,000 if single. File Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the credit.
- The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has helped workers with low and moderate incomes get a tax break for 40 years. Yet, one out of every five eligible workers fails to claim it. The most important qualification is that you have "EARNED INCOME". Earned income is generally income that you paid Social Security tax on. You might qualify for EITC this year even if you didn’t in the past. If you qualify for EITC, you must file a federal income tax return and claim the credit to get it. This is true even if you are not otherwise required to file a tax return. If you qualify for EITC, you could pay less federal tax, no tax or even get a refund. EITC could be worth up to $6,242. The average credit was $2,447 last year.
How could someone check if they have unclaimed refunds?
Stephen: If you did not file a tax return for 2012, you may be one of nearly one million taxpayers who may be due a refund from that year. If you are, you must claim your share of almost $950 million by April 18. To claim your refund, you must file a 2012 federal income tax return by April 18, 2016.
If you live in Massachusetts or Maine, you get an extra day to file both our Federal & State returns as the 18th of April is "Patriots' Day." You have until midnight on April 19, 2016 to file either of your returns or an automatic extension for your 2015 returns.
What if someone can’t meet the April 18 deadline?
Robin: You can get an automatic 6-month extension to file your return with a Form 4868. Most extensions are only needed if you are still waiting on a form (e.g. K1, 1099, etc.). It’s important to remember that an extension only extends your time to file, NOT TO PAY. To get an extension, you can use any of the below methods:
- IRS Free File - Traditional Free File and Free File Fillable Forms can both be used to file an extension for FREE. Access the Free File page at irs.gov.
- IRS e-file - Use IRS e-file to request an extension by using tax preparation software on your own computer or by going to a tax preparer.
- Form to File - Mail in IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It must be postmarked by April 18, 2016.