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9 tips to help you meet the Oct. 15 tax extension deadline

15th Due Date

You've now got one week, until next Tuesday, Oct. 15, to file your 2018 Form 1040 that you extended earlier this year.

During these next seven days, you need to at least get a start on that return. The deadline will be here before you know it. And this time, there's no more time.

Here are 9 tips and reminders to help you get that 1040 on its way to the IRS by next week.

1. Gather all your tax material.
By now you should have every document you need to file your taxes. Double check. Now. There's no give beyond Oct. 15 so you need to make sure you have the forms, receipts and such in hand before you start working on your Form 1040. This filing checklist can help.

2. Go electronic.
Just as with the April deadline, the IRS recommends October filers e-file. It's not only easy for taxpayers, but also the tax agency.

You can e-file via commercial tax software you use online or buy yourself and load onto your computer. If you hire a tax pro, look for one who's an authorized e-file provider.

IRS_Free-File_promo3. E-file for free.
Filing electronically is even better when it doesn't cost you anything. There are a couple of ways you might be able to file for free this October.

First is the IRS partnership with the Free File Alliance. This public-private collaboration known as Free File is available for eligible taxpayers through Oct. 15. This year, the eligibility income is $66,000.

You also might be able to file for free at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site if your adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less.

VITA operations, staffed by IRS-certified volunteers, generally are located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations across the country. To find a VITA site near you, use the VITA Locator Tool or calling toll-free 1 (800) 906-9887.

If, however, you're still a tax traditionalist and prefer paper, check out these snail mail tips to get your extended filing in on time.

4. Know the new tax laws.
I know, you're using a tax pro or software so you don't have to become an instant expert on the Internal Revenue Code. Still, it doesn't hurt to have at least a general idea of the tax changes created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

New options, such as the credit for other dependents and, if you run your own business, the section 199A qualified business income (QBI) tax credit, could make a big difference to your final tax bill.

Some tax breaks, like the moving deduction (now for military personnel only) and miscellaneous itemized business expenses, are gone. Others, notably the itemized claim for state and local taxes (SALT) are reduced.

All this info goes (or doesn't) on a new one-and-only Form 1040 and its additional schedules.

You can find more on the TCJA changes in the ol' blog's filing season tax tips that started in January. At the end of that special blog page you'll find links to the other main tax season months' tips. You also might want to also peruse the Weekly Tax Tips.

And these filing tips I posted just before the April 15 deadline still apply now, too.

5. Don't make common filing mistakes.
If you've waited this long to file, chances are you'll procrastinate until the very last minute. I'm not judging, but do want to warn you to not get in such a final filing rush that you make some common filing errors. They could be costly.

6. Pay electronically.
When you filed Form 8868 to get six extra months to submit your return, you paid a good guesstimate of any tax you expected to owe. However, if when your do fully fill out your 1040 you find you owe more, pay it electronically. You can check out your e-pay options in my earlier post on ways to pay Uncle Sam at tax time.

The main reason to e-pay is that it's quicker and you need to get any due tax to the U.S. Treasury ASAP to stop accruing interest and penalties.

7. Direct deposit you refund.
Yes, even folks who are getting refunds sometimes put off their filing to the absolute last minute. But once they finally finish their taxes, the fastest way to get the money they've left sitting interest-free in the Bank of Uncle Sam for months is to have it delivered by direct deposit.

8. Don't forget your state taxes.
There are only seven states that don't collect any time of individual tax. That means that most U.S. taxpayers live in one of the other 43 or the District of Columbia and have to file a tax returns with those jurisdictions every year.

United-States-typographic-map-us-1024x518

Most state (and Washington, D.C.) tax systems are based on federal filings. So when you postponed your IRS paperwork, you probably put off your state return, too. Make sure you finish it along with your federal 1040.

9. Make sure Oct. 15 is your deadline.
Some taxpayers in certain situations get time to file penalty-free beyond the mid-October due date.

This is the case for those serving in a combat zone. Armed forces members and certain civilian support personnel serving in these militarily active areas usually have until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due.

For federal tax purposes, the U.S. Armed Forces includes officers and enlisted personnel in all regular and reserve units controlled by the Secretaries of Defense, the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Coast Guard is also included, but not the U.S. Merchant Marine or the American Red Cross.

There's also more time to file for residents of certain disaster areas. The IRS usually grants individual and business taxpayers who have a valid extension and are in or affected by a federally-declared disaster extra time to meet impending tax deadlines.

That's the case this October for Texans who had to deal with Tropical Storm Imelda. These taxpayers now have until Jan. 31, 2020, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments, including their extended 2018 returns.

The added 3½ months to file apply to southeast Texas taxpayers in Chambers, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery and Orange counties. Any locales added later will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief. The IRS updates its disaster-rated extensions on its special disaster relief Web page.

The Imelda-related relief applies to various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on Sept. 17. In addition to the Oct. 15 filing extension deadline, individual taxpayers also will have until the end of next January to file their final 2019 quarterly estimated income tax payments normally due on Jan. 15, 2020.

Businesses with extensions also have the additional time.

I know this seems like a lot. OK. It is a lot. But you still have a week to get your taxes done. Go for it and good filing luck.

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