It’s getting to be that time. April 17 (i.e. tax day) is nearly upon us, and as was the case in school, such a major deadline is inevitably met with a bit of procrastination. Luckily for those of us who’ve put off preparing our tax returns, CalCPA has some Cliff’s Notes of sorts that will help get them filed correctly, on time, and with the greatest possible savings. The Internal Revenue Service is not going to accept the trite “dog ate my taxes” excuse, after all.
- State Tax Refunds: Don’t make the mistake many taxpayers do by blindly reporting prior-year state tax deductions as income in the current year. Even if the state taxing authorities notified you of your refund, they have no idea whether that refund is taxable. If you didn’t benefit from a state tax refund on your 2011 federal return (e.g. if you took the standard deduction or deducted for sales taxes instead of state income taxes), then your refund might not be taxable, either in part of in full.
- Unnecessary Itemization: Many taxpayers assume they’re better off itemizing expenses, but those who have already paid off a mortgage or who live in a state without an income tax might be better served just taking the standard deduction.
- Alternative Minimum Tax: Trying to figure out whether this type of income tax is applicable can be confusing, but you could wind up being on the hook for penalty fees and interest if you mistakenly don’t account for it. The IRS has an online Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Assistant that can help you make this determination.
- 2011 Carry-overs: You can often deduct losses from previous years (e.g. bad stock choices) on your current year’s taxes.
In addition, CalCPA has some basic logistical tips that may seem obvious but can easily be overlooked with the filing deadline looming:
- Fill out electronic tax returns instead of paper ones in order to benefit from immediate submission as well as automatic help with certain calculations.
- Regardless of whether you e-file or fill out a paper form, double check your numbers as well as include all required Social Security Numbers and signatures. Remember, all taxpayers must sign and date their returns, couples must both sign joint filings, and professionals paid for tax preparation services must also sign.
- Make your check out to “United States Treasury,” include it with (but do not attach it to) your return, and denote your Social Security Number, phone number, the date, and the type of tax form you’re filing.
- Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request
- Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher (PDF 47K)
- Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (PDF 50K)
- Official Payments Corporation
All in all, it’s going to take a bit of time to really dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s as far as making sure you’ve included all the requisite information on your tax return and have done so in such a way as to maximize your savings. Luckily, you should still have enough time to file your return properly, and once you do, the celebration can ensue!