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Tax-exempt bonds and sports facilities

Tax time is nearly up for master procrastinators

Alarm_clock_ringing_2That's right, all you master procrastinators. You better get your act together this weekend. The final filing deadline for most 2006 Form 1040s is Monday.

Don't get in such a hurry, though, that you overlook some tax breaks. Areas that the IRS says filers are ignoring at their own expense include:

Telephone excise tax refund
This is a one-time refund of long-distance excise taxes (details on how it came about are in this earlier blog item). The refund applies to phone charges billed between March 1, 2003, and July 31, 2006. If you have those bills on hand, you can figure your exact amount due back from the IRS, although that presents its own set of problems as blogged about
here. Or you can claim a standard refund amount of $30 to $60, which is based on your filing status.

Even if you don't have to file a Form 1040, you still could get this rebate by filing special Form 1040EZ-T. If you meet Free File requirements, you can that no-cost, online avenue to request your phone tax refund.

Last-minute extender tax breaks
Several popular tax breaks -- state and local sales taxes on Schedule A and the tuition and fees and educator expense deductions on Form 1040 -- were renewed too late to be included on 2006 paper forms. If you are filing the old-fashioned way, you'll have to follow special instructions to claim them. If you use tax software, the computer program will take care of the entries for you.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
If you had earned income last year of less than $38,348, you may qualify for this tax break. Some filers could get as much as $4,536, depending on their exact income and the number of children they can claim. The IRS' interactive EITC Assistant can help you determine whether you're eligible.

Retirement savers credit
Low-and moderate income workers who contributed to a retirement plan, either at work via a 401(k) or own their own in an IRA or 401(k), may be able to take the savers credit. This story has details on claiming the credit.

Even more time for some: Some taxpayers have more time to file, but they probably wish they didn't.  The IRS has extended the filing deadline for those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other combat zones, as well as taxpayers affected by certain natural disasters.

Don't make common mistakes: One drawback of pushing a filing deadline, either in April or months later, is that folks tend to wait until the very, very last minute. And that often contributes to file-in-haste mistakes.

To avoid that, get to work now on your return. Yeah, it sucks spending a weekend doing taxes, but you don't want to be up all Sunday night, or worse, using up a vacation day Monday to get the job done.

When you do finish your 1040, give it a good review to make sure you haven't made any of these 12 common tax filing errors. And before you drop your paper return in the mailbox or hit the send button on your e-form, run through this 10-point tax return checklist.

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