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Time is running out to file your taxes
For people who have procrastinated, the taxman cometh. In a few days, anyhow. Here are some tips for people filing their tax returns right up to the deadline:
• Take your time. Like in school, it's better to check your work before you turn it in than turn it in too soon and get something wrong.
• File electronically. Quick, can be done day or night, and you get instant confirmation.
• Be prepared to file an extension if your paperwork isn't in order. But be ready to make a payment when you do.
• Many local preparers will be open well into the evening on April 17, but make an appointment as soon as you can.
• Check your figures. If you're using software, double check what you've put in the various boxes. And check the Social Security numbers for yourself and your dependents.
• Want more tips? Check www.irs.gov.
First, take a deep breath: Because the 15th is a Sunday, and because there's a local holiday in Washington, D.C., on Monday, you have two extra days to do your taxes.
But if you haven't started already, local tax offices and the Internal Revenue Service said there are definite points to consider, as well as sound steps to take.
Richard Panick, a spokesman for the IRS in Northern California and Oregon, said even with relatively few days before the deadline of Tuesday, it still makes sense to take your time.
"For folks still working on your return, we urge them not to rush," said Panick, who added historically, as many as 30 percent of all returns nationally are submitted in the last week before the deadline.
Slowing down allows a filer to check several steps, Panick said, including having all of one's records together, taking stock of life changes such as a marriage or job change that might affect your return, and if you're planning to file by mail, making sure everything is signed.
Because it's instant, and because you receive instant notification back, the IRS strongly encourages people to file their return electronically, he said.
If you're planning to have someone else do your taxes, it's also wise not to wait too long to make an appointment, said Pat Baird, office manager at Liberty Tax Service in Yuba City.
"We can file extension returns if you don't have all your stuff together," he said, though for filers who believe they'll owe, a payment is due with the extension filing.
Necessary documents include, for example, the name and address of anyone to whom a filer paid rent to help determine if one qualifies for a renters credit. Business owners need to have receipts for their business expenses as well as personal receipts.
And it's always a good idea to double check numbers such as Social Security digits, for someone filing or their dependents, Panick and Baird said. A mismatched number is enough to get the return kicked back.
Many people are also affected by the end of a tax credit enacted a few years ago, called the "making work pay credit." Under it, Baird said, people filing as single payers got a $400 credit while couples got an $800 credit.
"They might be making the same pay, but the credit's not there this year," he said. "We've had some questions about it."
He also said the ongoing turbulence in real estate, with the resulting short sales and foreclosures, can have an effect on filers' deductions and income.
If the above information seems a bit daunting to take in and turn into a coherent tax return in the next few days, you're likely not to be alone, Panick said.
This year, the IRS projects about 1.6 million California residents will file for an extension, he said.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.