IRS provides tax relief for folks hit by Hurricane Michael
More folks affected by Hurricanes Florence and Michael get more time to file Oct. 15 tax extensions

Tax tips to help you meet the Oct. 15 filing extension deadline

Income tax filing deadline calendar post-it note reminder_cropped

Did you get an extension back in April to wait until Oct. 15 to file your 2017 tax return? Guess what? That's Monday.

Like this coming Monday. Like three days from now!

Sorry. That means no weekend fun for you. You need to spend your weekend, or at least part of it, working on your 2017 Form 1040.

I feel for all y'all ultimate procrastinators. I've been there, but not this year, thank goodness. The hubby and I still got an extension, joining more than 14 million other taxpayers who sidestepped the April 18 deadline, but we filed our return before the impending final due date.

If, however, you're still working on your return, this week's Saturday Shout Out is for you. And it's to me!

Well, technically it's to some of my earlier posts that have info and tips on completing a tax return when you're facing a critical filing deadline.

How to file: Most of us submit our returns nowadays electronically. That e-file option, discussed in this post, is available for sending in your extended filing. Tax software is set up to handle this. So is the Internal Revenue Service-private tax sector Free File option.

You qualify to use the free, online tax preparation and e-filing service is your adjusted gross income is $66,000 or less, regardless of your filing status. And it's available through midnight (in your time zone) Oct. 16. My January post has more details and tips on this regular and extended filing season's Free File options.

If you prefer paper, be sure to check out these snail mail tips for paper tax return filers.

Discovering you still owe: When you/we got our extensions, we sent the U.S. Treasury the amount of tax we expected to owe when we completed our filing. Unfortunately, though, we find our estimates are not quite on the mark when we finally fill out all the forms. If you find you owe a bit more, you've got to come up with that money now. Or ASAP. The IRS will assess penalty and interest charges backdated to the April due date. The quickest way to settle a tax debt is via electronic payments, which are part of this post.

Some retirement contributions are OK: A filing extension doesn't get you any extra time for contributing to an IRA, but it's OK if you're self-employed. Your 2017 tax year IRA contribution had to be made by the April filing deadline. But if you're self-employed, be it full-time or even just the occasional side hustle to supplement regular paychecks, you can open or add to a self-employment retirement plan by the October deadline if you got a filing extension.

You can read about this option in retirement tax moves to make by the October extension deadline. Also check out your self-employment retirement plan possibilities. If this works for you, be sure to get on this tax-saving task by talking to your financial and/or tax adviser first thing Monday morning to meet the deadline.

Extended extensions for some torm areas: If your home or business was hit by one of this season's hurricanes, your deadline might not be Oct. 15. The IRS has given folks in several states that were struck by major Hurricanes Florence and Michael more time to file.

Don't forget your state taxes: It's been many years since I had to worry about this (ah, Maryland state and local taxes … good times!), but most U.S. taxpayers also pay state taxes. Since most of these more local tax systems use federal taxes as their starting point, if you got an extension to file your IRS 1040, you probably — and in many instances automatically — got a state filing extension, too. That time's up now, too.

You can check with your state tax office for details on filing. Most offer free online filing options directly on their websites.

Old, not new, tax laws: The changes brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have got a lot of attention this year, by me and my fellow tax journalists and bloggers. But remember that the tax return you're filling out now to send in by Oct. 15 relies on the prior tax laws.

If you find yourself confused by changes and are unsure if something is still in effect, check out the ol' blog. You can find some of this prior-year tax law general filing advice at:

IRS.gov also is a good resource. If you want to talk to a real person, the tax agency's representatives are reachable in most situations* via the IRS' toll-free line (800) 829-1040 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday. (*Alaska and Hawaii taxpayers should follow Pacific time in making calls, while IRS phone lines for folks in Puerto Rico are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time.)

And, of course, you always can touch base with your tax professional if you're concerned about any tax matters specific to your personal situation.

Now get to work! The sooner you get your return done, the more time you have to enjoy what's left of the weekend.

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