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10 Ways to Avoid Problems at Tax Time

My recommendations for the best practices to avoiding problems when filing your taxes.

If you’re looking for ways to avoid last-minute problems with filing your taxes, take a look at these tips from the IRS:

1.     Don’t Procrastinate. If you wait until the last minute, your haste to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and may increase your risk of making an error.

2.     Organize your tax records. Tax preparation time can be significantly reduced if you develop a system for organizing your records and receipts. Start with the income, deduction or tax credit items that were on last year’s return.

3.     Visit the IRS online at: www.irs.gov You can find tax law information and answers to frequently asked tax questions.

4.     Take advantage of free assistance. The IRS offers recorded messages on about 150 tax topics through its toll-free TeleTax service at 1-800-829-4477. It also offers federal tax forms and publications at 1-800-829-3676. Some libraries, post offices, banks, copy centers and grocery and office supply stores carry the most widely requested forms and instructions. Libraries may also have reference sets of IRS publications.

The IRS also staffs a tax Help Line for Individuals at 1-800-829-1040 and a Business and Specialty Tax Line at 1-800-829-4933. Hearing-impaired individuals with access to TTY/TDD equipment may call 1-800-829-4059 for assistance.

5.     Use IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers and Volunteer Programs. Free tax help is available at IRS offices nationwide. Also, check your newspaper or local IRS office to find locations for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly sites. To obtain the location, dates, and hours of the VITA or TCE volunteer site closest to you, call the IRS toll-free Tax Help Line for Individuals at 1-800-829-1040.

6.     Double-check your math and data entries for possible errors and make sure you have provided the names and correct (and legibly written) Social Security or other identification numbers for yourself, your spouse and your dependents.

7.     Have your refund deposited directly to your bank account to speed it up and to reduce the chance of theft. Check the tax instructions for details on entering the routing and account numbers on your tax return and make sure the numbers you enter are correct.

8.     Don’t panic if you can’t immediately pay any taxes owed. You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, suggesting your own monthly payment amount and due date, and getting a reduced late payment penalty rate. You also have options for charging your balance on a credit card either online as part of an electronic return or by phone through a processing agent.

9.     Electronic filers with a balance due can file early and authorize the government’s financial agent to take the money directly from their checking or savings account on April 15, with no fee. Note that if you file your tax return or a request for a filing extension on time, even if you can’t pay, you avoid potential late filing penalties.

10.  Ask your accountant to request an extension of time to file. If the clock runs out, you can get an automatic six-month extension of time to file, i.e. until October 15. An extension of time to file does not give you an extension of time to pay, however. You can call 1-888-796-1074, e-file a Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File, that is included in most tax preparation software, or send a paper Form 4868 to the IRS to request the extension. You will need the adjusted gross income and total tax amounts from last year’s return if you request the extension by computer or phone. You may also get an extension by charging your expected balance on a credit card, and then you won’t have to file the form. Contact Official Payments Corporation at 1-800-272-9829 or Link2Gov Corporation. There is no IRS fee for credit card payments, but the processors charge a convenience fee.

Our tip? Contact us. We’re experts in tax preparation and filing. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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