Taxes, taxes and more taxes
Despicable dementia scam defrauds IRS

Putting off today what you can put off tomorrow

Austin apparently is a city of tax-filing fiends. In fact, it looks like most of my fellow Texans are on the ball this tax season.

Except me. Maybe. I'm not sure.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm still slogging through the bulk of my taxes.

Enchilada_2_2 I figured the self-employment component enough to get some ancillary tasks completed. But as far as the whole, as we say here in Texas, enchilada … well, I've still got some chiles to chop and cheese to grate.

Hey! Back off! I've got a few days to meet Uncle Sam's deadline!

Maybe I need to knock on a neighbor's door for help. Austin, which ranked fifth on Intuit's 2005 list of tax-procrastinating cities, didn't make the top 10 this year. Neither did San Antonio and Dallas, which also were full of tax-filing dilly-dalliers last year.

I know I talked about tax procrastination not too long ago here, but now I've got some actual data, albeit data released as publicity ploy by a giant tax software firm (Intuit makes TurboTax).

Marketing machinations aside, it's always fun to see which residents hate doing their taxes the most. This is the fifth annual survey by Intuit, which comes up with its rankings based on the number of tax returns electronically filed via TurboTax Online the previous tax year.

So technically, the methodology means that Austin taxpayers were more prompt last year … they all might be procrastinating here in 2006 … and we're now filing (or not yet filing) 2005 returns in April 2006 and … I'm getting confused. Let's just go to the numbers.

Here, in Letterman style, are Intuit's top 10 tax procrastinating cities:

10. Los Angeles makes the company's list for the third straight year.
  9. Atlanta fell off the 2005 list, but sneaked back in this year.
  8. Tucson makes the list for the first time.
  7. Phoenix also is another Arizona first-timer. What's going on out there?
  6. San Francisco makes the list again, but three slots lower this year. 
  5. New York falls from number 1 to number 5. Poor New Yawkers! The Yankees haven't won a World Series in years and then they lose this title, too!
  4. Houston is the lone Lone Star State representative this year. I guess National League Champion Astros fans spent all their time celebrating the start of a new baseball season instead of preparing their taxes.
  3. Chicago not only took the World Series at our Astros' expense, the city's taxpayers also rank higher in the procrastinator ranks.
  2. San Jose has all that high-tech access and still its residents aren't e-filing early.

And Intuit's number one tax procrastinating city is …

  1. San Diego, which takes the title by jumping up five spots from the previous year's list. Just goes to show you what a little hard work, or in this case, lack thereof, will get you.

Joining Intuit in examining tax data and taxpayer trends is another company that depends on filers, H&R Block. In a recent survey, the tax prep firm found that:

  • 80 percent of taxpayers polled didn't know the correct 2006 filing deadline;
  • 42 percent hadn't filed their taxes yet because they were missing paperwork, too busy or simply procrastinating; and
  • 15 percent of those yet-to-file said they planned to ask the IRS for an extension.

Please, sir. May I have some more time?
I might be joining that last group this year.

It won't be the first time I've gotten an extension. A few years ago, just like this year, things kind of got away from me. I decided that rather than frantically pulling tax material together and possibly making a major mistake in my rush to meet the deadline, I'd just give myself a bit of breathing room.

I won't be alone. Estimates of those expected to file for an extension range from 8 million to 10 million.

The good thing about filing for an extension this year is that the IRS has made it easier. Now you just have to file one form, Form 4868, to get six more months. Previously, you had to ask for four months (until Aug. 15) and then seek two more months by filing another, different form in August in order to get until mid-October to complete your forms.

If you do plan to put off the inevitable a bit longer, keep two things in mind.

First, the IRS grants you an automatic extension to file your forms. It doesn't give you six more months to pay any tax you owe.

You need to fill out a preliminary 1040 to see if you'll owe any taxes. If you find you do have tax due, send in that amount (or at least a close estimate -- the IRS officially says you need to pay at least 90 percent of it) with your extension request. If you don't, the agency will start assessing fines for the underpayment.

And secondly, you don't have to be an uber-procrastinator.

Just because you ask for six more months, you don't have to wait until the final October deadline (which is Monday, Oct. 16, since the usual Oct. 15 extended due date is a Sunday this year) to file. You can send in your tax forms any time before then.

The year that I filed our taxes after the usual deadline, I managed to get all the forms completed and to Uncle Sam just a few days later than normal.

My filing delay wasn't long, but the extra time helped. I was able to get our taxes completed properly without the panic. And I did so well before I had to stare another ultimate filing deadline in the face again that year.

TODAY'S TAX TIP: If you think an extension is the right tax move for you this filing season, you can get details on the process here.

And if you think tax procrastination is purely the purview of those who owe, think again. This story says even those who get money back from the IRS have been known to put off tax chores until the last possible minute.

Crazy, I know. But that's what taxes tend to do to us!


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