Very few people actually enjoy filing their taxes, especially if they know they are going to end up owing money. That is one reason why many people procrastinate and file late. Another problem may be that even though all tax forms are supposed to be in the mail by January 31st, that doesn’t always mean that arrive in a timely manner. If you filed late this year and got hit with an IRS penalty, here are some tips to keep it from happening again next year.
The Debt Misconception
Many people put off filing because they don’t have the money to pay the taxes they owe. This is a huge mistake. You should still file your federal tax return on time. The IRS explicitly states on their website, “Even if a taxpayer doesn’t have enough money to pay, returns should be filed to avoid further penalties for failure to file. The IRS will assist in finding a solution to the problem.”
Keep Your Last Paycheck Stubs
Even before you get your W2, you can find out your gross income based on your last paycheck stub of the year. Take that information, start your return in January, and update it as you receive additional forms. Work on your return a little bit at a time as new items come in so that you don’t feel rushed to complete it all in one sitting.
Your tax return is something you have to do every year, so why wait until you’re facing a deadline to deal with it? Keep track of your receipts and other paperwork such as monthly mortgage statements as you acquire them and put them in clearly labeled folders or envelopes. This means a little extra work on your part throughout the year, but it will pay off big time when you go to file your tax return and you don’t have to scramble to find loose receipts.
If you don’t have all the forms you need to file your taxes by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, don’t just wait for them to come. Call companies that you haven’t received W2’s from yet and request another copy. If you are an independent contractor, contact all clients that haven’t supplied you with 1099 forms yet. Do the same for all forms you’re missing. Missing form issues can take time to resolve, so you don’t want to wait until April to start working on them.
Very few people would say filing taxes is fun, but it is a necessary evil. If you put it off to the point of filing your return late, the only thing you accomplish is paying the IRS more money than you really need to. Don’t think of your tax return as something you deal with once a year, think of it as something you should keep in the back of your mind all year long so that when it is time to file, you make things as easy for yourself as possible. For additional help, visit turbotax.intuit.com or call a local accountant.
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