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10 filing tips for folks who got a Form 1040 tax extension

Tax deadline reminder

Based on Internal Revenue Service tax return filing data, it looks like around 7 million Americans have yet to submit their 2016 forms.

They need to get busy. (Yes, I get to say they, not we, this year since I filed my 1040 this summer.) The absolute, final due date is less than a week away.

The six-month filing extension typically kicks the extended deadline to Oct. 15. But since that's on a Sunday this year, the IRS is giving extreme procrastinators until Monday, Oct. 16.

So that you don't waste any of these last few days you have to work on filling out your Form 1040 — not to mention not wasting any possible tax savings — here are 10 last-minute filing tips.

1. File by Oct. 16. 
No kidding. This is it. If you miss this deadline, you'll face penalties for not filing, which are stiffer than those for not paying. If you're filing electronically, you have until midnight your time to get your return to the IRS. But don't wait until 11:59 p.m. to hit send. Your computer could crash. The system could be jammed with lots of other late filers. So send it as early in the day as possible.

If you're going the old-fashioned route, get to your local U.S. Post Office in time to have the envelope postmarked Oct. 16. That's considered timely filing by the IRS.

You also can use a private delivery service if you wish. Again, check with the approved carriers as to when you need to get your tax material to them so they can get it to the IRS by Oct. 16.

2. Try IRS Free File.
If your adjusted gross income is $64,000 or less, you still can use Free File, the online tax preparation and e-filing option created by the IRS and the tax software industry.

Even if you made more than this year's Free File income threshold, you still can use the online program's downloadable forms option. It's also free. And while there's no electronic tax prep help, if you know what you need to put on which forms, you can fill them out online and e-mail them at no cost.

Both Free File options are available at through Oct. 16.

3. Don't cheat yourself.
We all have a tendency under pressure to make mistakes. And there's no pressure like tax filing pressure. Don't let it get to you or it could cost you.

Check out these 10 common filing mistakes and make sure you don't make any of them. They could mean you'll end up owing Uncle Sam more.

Similarly, don't be in such a final filing rush that you overlook tax breaks and cost yourself valuable tax savings.

4. Pay any tax you owe.
When you got your filing extension, you paid a good estimate of what you thought your final tax liability would be. If, however, you discover that your underestimated, pay up with your filing.

The bad news is that the IRS will add under-penalties to your due amount. So pay it in full with your filing, or at least as much as you can. If you need to, set up an installment agreement to pay the bill over time.

If you are paying your full tax bill, you have several electronic options. You can use IRS Direct Pay, which will move the money directly (hence the name) from your checking or savings account to the U.S. Treasury. If you have an Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) account, you can pay that way. You also can pay with your credit or debit card.

5. Use direct deposit. 
Yes, it's true. Some folks who get refunds put off filing. I don't get it, either, but who am I to judge. If that's your case, you can make sure you finally get your tax cash back more quickly by e-filing and telling the IRS to directly deposit your self-belated refund.

6. Don't panic if you're in a disaster area.
People who have an extension and live or work in a disaster area often have more time to file. Currently, taxpayers impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as people in parts of Michigan and West Virginia qualify for this relief. The IRS' disaster relief page (as well as the recovery section of the ol' blog's Storm Warnings page) has more information.

7. Take your time if you're in a combat zone.
If you're serving the United States in a combat zone, you have more important things to think about than filing 1040s. The IRS understands. Military members and those serving in a combat zone generally get more time to file. If this applies to you, you typically have until at least 180 days after you leave the combat zone to both file returns and pay any taxes.

8. Don't FUBAR your FBAR.
New laws changed a lot of tax deadlines this year. Most of the due-date changes affected businesses.

But one change applies to owners of foreign financial accounts. The new annual due date for filing Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or FBAR, for foreign financial accounts is April 15 to coincide with the federal income tax filing season.

The change, which was part of the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, also provides for a maximum six-month extension of the filing deadline. That automatic extension also coincides with the individual extension due date of Oct. 15, or this year on Oct. 16.

Remember, you must file a FBAR electronically with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) if you had an interest in, or signature or other authority, over foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during the tax year.

9. Make tax-saving retirement contributions.
Sorry, this advice doesn't apply to IRAs. That deadline came and went back in April.

But as I posted earlier, if you're self-employed and got an extension, that also gave you an extension to contribute to your self-employment retirement account. If you don't have such an account, you also have until Oct. 16 to open one and then contribute.

10. Don't forget your state tax returns.
If you filed for a federal tax extension, you probably got one for your state tax returns, too, since they tend to rely on your federal 1040's data. Make sure you give yourself enough time as the October deadline nears to finish up your state returns, too.

That's it. Now get to work on those tax returns! If you finish them this week, you can enjoy your weekend without worrying about Oct. 16.



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