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Tax filing clock ticking again
By the Numbers: 176

 If you got an extension to file your 2010 tax return, you essentially hit the snooze button on the tax alarm clock.

It started ticking again on April 19. And if you've checked the tax countdown clock there in the left column of the ol' blog, you'll see that as of today (Sunday, April 24), you have 176 days to finish up your 2010 Form 1040.

176 days left to file on April 24 2011 And that's this week's By the Numbers figure.

This latest countdown clock will run until midnight on Oct. 17. Yes, it's the 17th this year because the usual Oct. 15 deadline is on a Saturday, pushing the ultimate filing extension due date to the following Monday.

As with the April filing deadline, some things remain the same even six months later.

First, you get all 24 hours of Oct. 17. So the ol' blog's clock is counting down to the very end of that day.

Again, as long as you hit "enter" before Oct. 17 ends, you're OK. I won't nag discuss right now why you shouldn't wait until 11:59 p.m. that day, but .

If you're a committed postal customer, you'll be OK as long as your envelope carrying your taxes gets the Oct. 17 postmark.

Second, the IRS still encourages electronic filing. As noted a couple of paragraphs ago, e-filing is OK for extended return filing. In fact, the IRS prefers it.

It's better for you, too, since even after high tax season, e-filed returns are processed much more quickly than paper filings.

Private software companies join the IRS in counting on most of the nearly 10 million taxpayers who got extensions to come back to their computers (or their tax professionals' computers) this fall.

And the IRS' Free File option will still be open through Oct. 17.

Third, take the time to get your taxes right. You likely put off filing because you just didn't have enough time to do a proper, and tax-saving, job. Don't waste that good intention by messing up your taxes now.

Check out often overlooked deductions and credits, even if you don't itemize.

Avoid silly tax mistakes.

Check out the ol' blogs tax tips for January, February, March and April (most still apply now).

If you find you must get outside help, start looking for a tax professional now.

Finally, don't go down to the wire again. OK, one little nag. Although you have until Oct. 17 to file your tax returns, you don't have to wait that long.

The IRS will happily take your 2010 return any time before then.

If you're getting a refund -- yes, some folks who delay filing actually do get refunds -- the sooner you get your paperwork in, the sooner you'll get that cash back from Uncle Sam.

And if you end up owing even more than you sent the IRS when you filed for an extension -- you did pay last week when you sent in your Form 4868, didn't you? -- the sooner you make your final payment, the less you'll owe in penalties and interest.

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