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Missed April 15 tax deadline? Got an extension? Now what?

April came and went without your tax return.

Taxes-past-april-15-october-15_300x300Either you filed Form 4868 to get an extension until Oct. 15 to finish your paperwork. That's good.

Or you didn't file anything. Not good.

Here's a look at what you should do next in either situation.

Before we get to specifics, however, a quick caveat. This advice is aimed at folks who owe taxes.

If you don't owe or are due a refund, you still should file, but since penalties and interest are based on taxes you still owe, you're not in as dire shape.

Now, ultra tax procrastinators, let's get to it.

First, take a breath. OK. That's all you get, especially if you didn't file anything. You need to get to work now because what you owe the U.S. Treasury is growing by the day.

Get professional help: Maybe you didn't do your taxes because you felt overwhelmed. Now's the time to get help. With the April 15 crush over, some tax preparers may have some open client slots. Find a tax pro that fits your needs ASAP.

Use Free File: If you feel comfortable taking charge of your own taxes, check out Free File. This Internal Revenue Service/tax software manufacturers partnership program is open to taxpayers whose income was $60,000 or less.

If you made more than 60 grand, you still can prepare and file your taxes for free using the IRS' Free File Fillable Forms. Here you open electronic versions of IRS paper forms and enter your information on your computer. The fillable forms do some of the math for you, but this option really is better for folks who are used to doing their own taxes.

Both the full Free File and Free Fillable Forms, which allow you to not only prepare your tax return but submit it electronically at no cost, are available through the Oct. 15 extension period.

Pay as much as you can. If you didn't file anything or didn't pay all the tax you expect to owe on April 15, pay as much as you can when you do file your tax return.

The IRS offers several electronic payment options, ranging from putting your tax bill on a credit or debit card to having the money come directly from your bank account by using Direct Pay.

If you can't settle up your tax bill in full, look into spreading out payments via an IRS installment plan. Many folks who owe can apply for a payment plan online.

Don't wait until Oct. 15: If you did file for an extension, you're not in such a rushed situation. You've got almost six months to do your taxes properly.

The countdown clock in the right column is keeping track of the dwindling days for us. I say us because I'm right there in extension land with you.

But that doesn't mean we have to, or should, wait until the absolutely final fall filing deadline. The IRS will gladly take our tax returns any time before then.

Avoid filing mistakes: Even if you're in more hyper tax mode because you didn't file anything on April 15, don't get in such a hurry that you make common tax filing mistakes that will add to your already growing tax bill. Be quick, but be careful and be thorough.

Take all your tax breaks: The flip side of no mistakes is not overlooking tax breaks that could shave a few dollars off your tax bill. There are credits and deductions, including above-the-line deductions that don't require you to itemize.

You'll find them in the Daily Tax Tip collections for JanuaryFebruaryMarch and April.

And this post? It's the first Weekly Tax Tip of 2015. These tips, too, have their own page here at the ol' blog. If you insist on maximizing your 2014 tax return filing extension period, check it out, too.

The weekly tips, however, will go beyond the Oct. 15 deadline, offering suggestions through the end of this year on how to trim your 2015 tax bill.

But for now, focus on your 2014 taxes. You and Uncle Sam will feel much better when you're finally done.


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