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4 moves to make now if you missed the tax-filing deadline

Some folks didn't file their federal taxes on April 18. Judging from social media, much of the deadline busting was the fault of cats.

Taylor Swift as a cat lady via Giphy

"Can't claim my cats as dependents? Well I can't file then," Tweeted @deedles420. Sorry, Dee, but while a dependent doesn't have to be a blood relative, your fur babies don't pass tax muster.

Dee was not alone. The Twitter hashtag #ExcusesForNotFilingTaxes underscored the internet's reputation as cat loving and apparently tax hating.

"Still waiting for cats' social security numbers," Tweeted @growingupZee. Good point, Zee, since those nine official digits from the Social Security Administration are key to tax filing. But that applies to people, not felines.

"The cat ate the taxes," declared @BeccaJM_. Nice try, Becca, but that didn't work with the dog and your homework either.  

And another animal snuck into the no-filing tax excuse stream:

Squirrel at johnyjuice excuse for not filing taxes Twitter hashtag
"Squirrel!" announced the distracted @johnyjuice. Uh, no. 

Although in some specific cases animals can count as tax breaks, the critter claims on Twitter won't fly with the Internal Revenue Service.

Other sundry no-filing reasons: Neither will the one from a Star Wars fan who didn't file because of travel abroad.

"I have cruises booked nonstop for the year so I basically live in international water," said @ICouldBeAJedi

Even if you take the ship all the way across the Atlantic and settle there, U.S. citizens living abroad still have to file a tax return with the IRS and pay the U.S. Treasury taxes on any income earned anywhere in the world. The only slight relief if you do reside in another country is that you get until June 15 to file your tax forms, but you still were required to pay any due tax by the regular April deadline.

Some folks got political. "I will file them once I'm elected President," said @MoretDarrin

And one honest Tweeter confessed a common tendency to put things off.  "I'm a procrastinator," said @LiveDerekChu.

In addition to the social media tax filing admissions, a recent GoBankingRates survey found some Americans are willing to go to extremes if it means not paying taxes:

  • 32 percent said they had no problem performing five karaoke songs in front of their company if they could avoid paying taxes,
  • 18 percent would go without Wi-Fi for one year,
  • 13 percent would gain 20 pounds,
  • 11 percent said they would be fine with their web browsing history made public, and
  • 5 percent would be willing to smell like a skunk for six months.

Sorry folks, while funny, none of the Twitter posts or survey suggestions will get you off the tax hook.

And if you truly didn't send in a tax return or extension request on Tuesday, you need to take the following 4 steps ASAP.

1. File a return.
Yes, the filing deadline is over. But still get the IRS a return. Now.

Maybe you really are waiting for some tax info necessary to fill out your 1040. Fine. But fill out the return as thoroughly as you can now and amend it later. Once the IRS has your 1040 in hand, the non-filing penalty that started accruing on April 19 stops.

Plus, getting your 1040 into the system will prove to Uncle Sam that you know you have a tax responsibility and you're doing your best to fulfill it.

The fastest way is to file electronically. And if you qualify for Free File — that's having an adjusted gross income of $64,000 or less regardless of your filing status — use it. The IRS/tax software partnership is still open.

2. Pay what you can.
If you didn't file because you can't pay your due tax bill in full, pay as much as you can.

That partial tax payment will not only reduce the amount upon which interest charges are assessed (and, again that process started on April 19), it also will help with the separate non-payment penalty, too.

Again, going electronic helps you settle at least some of your tax bill more quickly. Check out the e-payment options and use the one that works best for your situation.

3. Set up a payment plan.
If your tax bill is really big, consider an IRS payment plan.

You can set up an installment plan directly with the IRS, either by sending the agency Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, or by using the IRS' Online Payment Agreement Application.

4. File your state returns, too.
Most of the 43 states and District of Columbia that collect income taxes use taxpayers' federal returns as the basis for state filings.

So if you didn't file your federal 1040 this week, then you probably didn't file your state return either.

Each state has its own rules and penalties for late- and non-filers, but they all mean that the longer you put off that tax task, the more you'll owe your state tax collector, too.

Check with your state tax department about the steps you need to take here to reduce those penalties.

Don't owe? Don't worry: If you don't owe the U.S. Treasury any taxes and didn't file your return, don't panic.

Although the IRS still wants your tax paperwork, your non-filing won't cost you. Penalties are assessed based on any tax you owe. And interest charges on $0 tax due is obviously $0. Even I can do that math without a calculator!

But most of us don't calculate and pay our taxes, either via withholding and/or estimated taxes, down to the exact penny every year. If you do, call me and then the Guinness world records people.

That means if you didn't owe any taxes with your return, you're due a refund. What the heck are you waiting for!?!

The IRS isn't going to automatically send you your tax payment overage. You have to ask for by filing a tax return.

Plus, there are other reasons to file a tax return when you don't legally have to do so.

So regardless of whether you owe or are getting a refund, the bottom line is the same. Finish that 1040 and associated forms and get them to the Internal Revenue Service — and state tax offices, too — as quickly as you can.

With taxes, it truly is better late than never.

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