Once upon tax time, today was a crazy one for filers. Aug. 15 used to be the first deadline that seekers of filing extensions had to face.
But in 2006, the IRS decided to eliminate the four-month deadline and automatically give all filing procrastinators six more months -- until Oct. 15 -- to get their tax acts together. There are just two caveats.
First, the request had to be made by the April deadline by filing Form 4868.
Secondly, the big requirement didn't change. The extension only applies to your tax forms. If your preliminary tax calculations indicated that you were going to owe the IRS, you had to send that money in with your Form 4868 request.
Apparently some habits die hard. Earlier this month I got this automated e-mail reply from a tax pro:
"I can't put it off any longer! I have got to fish or cut bait (and, to be honest, there are times when I would really like to just cut bait).
If I do not return your email promptly please know that I am locked behind closed doors trying to get caught up on the too many GD extensions.
Talk to you soon!"
Late filers can be relatively early: Keeping to old filing schedules is not necessarily a bad idea.
Just because you've got until Oct. 15 to get your return done, that doesn't mean you have to wait until that final deadline. The IRS will gladly accept your return any time before Oct. 15 if you're so inclined.
I'm sure my swamped tax-preparing friend was glad he made a dent in his apparently large batch of extended returns And the IRS sure prefers to get some of the 3 million, give or take a couple hundred thousand, still unfiled returns now instead of in a big mid-October rush.
If you're among those still-dallying taxpayers, my tax blogging colleague William Perez at About: U.S. Tax Planning has some info you'll find useful when you finally do get ready to tackle your tax paperwork.
And when you finally do fill out your 1040, be sure to check out these Bankrate tax return review tips before you send it to Uncle Sam. Just remember, the payment advice is this article should be moot, since you sent any money you owed with your extension request.
Making amends: Maybe you filed on time but when you got around to packing up your tax material, you discovered an error on your 1040. Fix it by filing an amended return.