Happy Tax Day!
No, I'm not six months late. Millions of ultimate procrastinators every year get an extension to file their tax paperwork. That absolutely final filing deadline is today. Oct. 15.
I must confess I'm one of those who delayed filing back in April. I finished my taxes a couple of days ago. If you're part of my club, here are some tips on getting your return safely to the Internal Revenue Service.
3 tax delivery tips for electronic filers
Filing electronically is the easier option. You just have to fill out the forms, double check them and then hit enter. But there still are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Don't wait too long. No, I'm not just picking on you because you've already put off your filing for six months. But don't push it until the very last minute. What if there's a computer glitch and your work gets lost? Or you hit "send" and nothing happens? Or your service provider crashes? You're in big trouble if you only have a few minutes left in the deadline day. So get to work on filing today ASAP.
2. Get confirmation that your return was accepted. You'll likely get two notifications when you e-file. The first tells you that your software company sent your return to the IRS. That's good, but that's not the end of the process. You'll want to see the second and more important message that the tax agency has accepted your filing.
The IRS acceptance notice doesn't necessarily mean that the federal tax man has OK'ed everything on your forms; that assessment will be made in the coming weeks (or months). But it does mean that you have met your filing responsibility for the tax year. I always print out this confirmation email and stick it with my paper copy of my taxes.
3. Save a copy of your computer generated return. Speaking of paper copies, this tip doesn't actually have anything to do with getting your return to the IRS, but it's an important step. You'll need a copy of your filing for info required when you check on the status of your refund. Yes, some late filers actually get money back. Go figure.
Tax returns also are critical when you apply for loans, such as a mortgage, or are seeking college financial aid. And if something bad happens when you try to e file, you have a copy to send to send in the electronic version's place.
Personally, I like to keep a full digital copy that includes not only the forms that go to the IRS, but also the worksheets that helped me fill them out. Then I print out just the forms to keep in an old-fashioned paper file.
3 tax delivery tips for snail mail filers
Maybe there's an explanation you need to attach to you taxes. Or maybe you just feel more comfortable snail mailing your return. Whatever the reason you're heading to your local Post Office, here are some things to consider.
1. Confirm the delivery address. Since the IRS no longer sends out tax packets, we don't get those pre-addressed envelopes. So you'll need to check the form's instructions to see where to send your tax return or go online and use the IRS' Where to File tool.
Note that the address is different for returns that include tax payments, in case you have to send more money in addition to what you paid when you got your extension, and for returns that generate a refund.
2. Use enough postage: The IRS accepts a postmark as evidence that you filed your return on time. But in order to see that postmark, the tax collector has to get the envelope containing your return. If it comes back to you because of insufficient postage, you've missed the filing deadline and the IRS has already started the late-filing penalty clock.
And don't get cheap at this point. It's worth it, at least from a peace of mind standpoint, to get some sort of certification that your taxes were delivered. That's also evidence that you did mail your return on time.
3. Get to the Post Office on time: Speaking of time, this is the corollary to the postage reminder. You've got to get your taxes in the postal system in time to get the Oct. 15 postmark.
With the expansion of e-filing, the U.S. postal system doesn't make a big deal out of late office hours so that people can get their taxes filed on time. And even then, that only happened on the April 15 deadline, not the Oct. 15 extension.
So check with your Post Office branch as to when it's last batch of letters go out and make sure your tax return is in that group.
OK. Enough reading; you can come back and peruse the ol' blog when this task is done.
It's time now to finish up those tax returns -- state ones, too! -- and get them on their way to the IRS.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Get your paper tax return to your local post office safely
- 5 tips to make sure your snail mailed tax return gets to the IRS
- Free File 2015 remains open through the Oct. 15 filing deadline
Find more tax news and tips at the Don't Mess With Taxes home page.