Most states also offer free online tax filing and paying
6 ways to use your tax refund

Didn't file a tax return on April 15? Make these moves NOW!

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The Internal Revenue Service's big tax party was yesterday and you didn't RSVP. Not even by filing Form 4868 to get an extension to show up as much as six months later.

In fact, you didn't attend the Tax Day soiree at all.

Maybe you had a good reason for not filing a Form 1040 on April 15. Maybe you simply forgot. Or maybe you started your return and got discouraged.

While the IRS won't take your failure to file your return and pay any tax you owe personally, the agency isn't going to overlook your tax rudeness either. And if don't take some tax action soon, it's going to cost you. Possibly big time.

Penalties already are accruing. And they add up for both filing late and paying late. Plus, there's the interest, which is still high due to inflation.

To get back on the IRS' good side, and stop the potential big hit to your bank account, here are four steps to take now.

1. File a return. 
This is the only way to stop the late-filing penalty charges. Even if you're still waiting for tax information or your return has errors, it's better to file as complete a 1040 as you can as soon as you can. Then you can correct the mistakes by filing an amended return.

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

The quickest way to do this is to e-file. If you live in one of the 12 states where the IRS offered its Direct File free tax preparation and e-filing pilot program, you're out of luck. Direct File closed at 11:59 p.m. on April 15 across all times zones. (Note to Massachusetts taxpayers who, thanks to the Patriots' Day and Emancipations Day holidays have until April 17 to file, Direct File is still open for you.)

But there still is a free option if your adjusted gross income, regardless of your filing status, is $79,000 or less. You can use one of the tax software companies participating this year in Free File. It's available through the Oct. 15 extension deadline.

2. Pay what you can.
Now about your tax bill. If you didn't file because you owe, you've compounded your tax trouble. In addition to a late filing penalty for not getting a Form 1040 to the IRS on time, the tax agency also penalizes you for not paying your full tax bill on time.

There is a bit of a break when both the non/late-filing and the non/late-payment penalties apply. But do you really want to pay the federal government any more than you absolutely have to? Didn't think so.

If you can't pay your full tax bill, pay what you can. Again, now.

The quickest way to settle or pay some of your tax bill is to pay electronically. My post 6 ways to e-pay your federal tax bill offers an overview of your tax e-payment options. Also check out the IRS' Paying Your Taxes page.

3. Set up a payment plan.
OK, your tax bill is big. Really big. In this case, you should look into paying it off over time. If you went to the IRS' tax payment page, you might have noticed the section on applying for a payment plan, including an installment agreement.

If you can come up with the tax due relatively soon, a short-term payment plan might be a good option. The IRS' short-term payment lets you pay your full tax debt in 180 days or less, as long as the amount you owe is less than $100,000 in combined tax, penalties, and interest. There's no set-up fee, but penalty and interest charges will continue until your balance is paid in full

You can set up short-term tax plan payments directly from your checking or savings account, or pay by check, money order, or debit/credit card. Fees will apply when you pay by plastic.

The IRS also offers a long-term tax payment plan, also known as an installment agreement, if the tax you owe plus penalties and interest is less than $50,000. You can pay off your tax bill monthly via automatic withdrawals. There's a $31 set-up fee, although it could be waived if your income isn't that much. Don't forget the penalty and interest amounts.

Check out the options and frequently asked questions at the Apply Online for a Payment Plan page.

4. File your state returns, too.
Most states and the District of Columbia collect some form of income taxes from their residents. And most of them follow the IRS filing calendar, as noted in my post about states' online tax filing and paying options.

But if you missed the federal Tax Day, then you likely missed your state's tax filing due date, too.

Each state has its own rules and penalties for late- and non-filers, but they all share one thing. Like the IRS, state tax officials also charge for late filing. So the longer you put off your state tax filing, the more you'll owe your state tax collector.

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

OK, you have a late-filing game plan. Act on it. Now.

With taxes, late truly is better than never.

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