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Hunting for tax Easter eggs

Easter_eggs_2 It's the do-or-die weekend for taxpayers. With only a few days until your 1040 (or extension) has to be on its way to the IRS, you might be looking for some shortcuts.

Well, there really aren't any ways left to circumvent the annoying necessity of filing. But we can offer some last-minute tips to make sure you get the job done correctly.

Think of these multiple tax tips as Easter eggs you don't have to hunt for. They're not as satisfying as chocolate bunny ears, but they can help make sure your tax basket is filled properly.

File for free: If your adjusted gross income is $50,000 or less, check the IRS Free File Alliance for help in getting your return submitted at no cost.

Unfortunately for many filers, they find themselves left out of this year's official free file program becasue of the income cap. (Read why the change here.) But some higher-earning procrastinators might be in luck.

That's because TaxCut, the tax software component of H&R Block, is making free online filing available for folks who might not qualify for the IRS-sanctioned program. Details on this offer are here. (Thanks to Taxalicious for the tip.)

BTW, competitor TaxACT has offered its standard software and online filing at no cost all season. The offer's still open at that site.

Paper filing finishes: Did you know that some folks, regardless of income, must send the IRS actual old paper forms? William Perez at About Taxes has the scoop on required retro filers, as well as some tips to make completing the paper easier.

Also be sure to check out this story for help on sending your forms via snail mail.

Last-minute once over: Regardless of whether you send your return with a 39-cent stamp or hit "enter" on your keyboard, you need to make sure it's ready to go. This checklist will help ensure that your return is processed promptly and your refund is soon on its way.

The National Association of Tax Professionals has a list, too. Find that group's advice here.

You also might want to double check this story on common mistakes that taxpayers tend to make so that you don't join the error-ridden ranks.

Ask for more time: One of the mistakes cited in the stories above and by other tax gurus is missing the extension deadline. If you just can't get your forms filled out by Monday, then file Form 4868 and get six more months to complete the job. Just remember to send in any (or most of the) money you might owe.

Say it with me class: "It's an extension to file, not to pay."

This story has details on seeking an extension.

Payment problems: Many people put off filing, or ignore it altogether, because they're facing large tax bills. It's better to go ahead and file and pay as much as you can rather than not file at all. Why? The IRS assesses separate penalties for not filing and not paying your taxes.

Find some payment options for an unexpectedly high tax bill here.

Don't forget other taxes: This Monday, in addition to being the deadline for annual 1040 filing, is also the day that first quarter 2006 estimated tax payments are due. You can find out more about these extra tax-filing requirements in this story.

Then there are old, forgotten taxes. That's what happened three years ago when millions of people didn't file their 2002 returns in April 2003. And a lot of those folks didn't get refunds because they didn't file.

If they don't get those old forms in by April 17, they'll never get their hands on their tax refunds from that year. If you're one of those nonfilers, find out the steps you need to take now in this story.

The same deadline applies if you did file a 2002 return but subsequently discovered a mistake. You've got three years from the original due date to submit an amended return.

And then there are state taxes.

I'm lucky. I live in one of the few states that doesn't impose an income tax on its residents. So I don't have any state forms to worry about this time of year.

Most Americans, however, do have to file state returns, usually on the same day as their federal forms are due. If you need help here, head over to Bankrate's state tax directory.

I know this looks like a lot, but you still have time. So quit dawdling and get to it! That way you'll be able to enjoy at least most of your weekend without having to hassle with taxes.


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