Tax time! Here’s a run-down of everything you need to do before the big date
Tax day can be a dreaded date on the calendar for a lot Americans. Heck, even the post office feels sorry for us. Why else are they willing to keep their doors open late just to help postmark our tax return in time?
To make your tax day easier, we’ve compiled a list of things you need to or can do before the IRS’s red-letter day:
Two Extra Days
This year, tax day is April 17, 2018. Think of it as a gift from the IRS. Because April 15th is a Sunday, and D.C celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16th, you earn two additional days of interest on the money you set aside for your tax bill and 48 hours to dig through your receipts looking for another deduction.
Fund your retirement account
There’s not much you can do after December 31 that will affect your 2017 taxes, but every bit counts. If you have a Roth or Traditional IRA and haven’t maxed out your contribution, do it by April 17, and you can potentially lower your tax bill. It’s the last day to make a contribution for 2017, regardless of whether it’s tax deductible or not. If you’ve filed for an extension and have a Keogh or SEP IRA, you’ll have until October 15, 2018, but it’s smarter to start your tax-free compounding sooner than later.
Do you know the documents you’ll need to complete your tax return? Don’t leave it to the last minute or you may run out of time. Collect all of your W-2s,1099s, and any mortgage statements. These should have arrived in your mailbox by January 31, 2018. Gather receipts for tax-deductible expenses, bank and brokerage statements, rental property income information, social security numbers for dependents, and any other documents you need for your return. There’s nothing worse than being “in the zone” and having to stop to look for another piece of paper. Plan ahead and avoid the frustration.
Use the right tax form
Yes, most tax forms can be found at the library or post office, but why make a trip if you don’t have to. Go straight to the online source: the Internal Revenue Service. The site can also link you to a list of government websites where you’ll be able to find your state forms, too.
Need more time?
If you don’t think you’ll be able to file your taxes by April 17, be sure to file Form 4868 for an extension. You’ll get an additional six months to finish, which will bring you to October 15, 2018. It’ll give you more time for the paperwork, but it won’t delay any tax payment, however. You’ll have to reasonably estimate your tax liability and include payment when you file your request. Don’t let that deter you, though. If you file late without having filed for an extension and you wind up owing the IRS, you’ll also be hit with a late-filing penalty AND a late-payment penalty!
The IRS processes electronic transfer more quickly than paper, so if you expect a refund, file electronically. You’ll likely get it three to six weeks sooner. Request a direct deposit to your bank account and it’ll be even faster–and it’s guaranteed not to get lost in the mail!
If you owe the IRS, you can still file electronically and then wait until the deadline to send payment. Include a check with Form 1040-V, or pay via direct debit or with a credit card. Know, though, that a credit card will include an additional service charge that can be as high at 2.5 percent. On the other hand, a direct debit should allow you to delay the transaction until the filing deadline.
Ask for help
If you’ve had a life-changing event in 2017 or your taxes are more of an overwhelming task than you’d like to tackle, consider a professional preparer. You’ll still need to collect your documents and answer some questions, but a professional may help alleviate some of the headache and offer you more confidence. Don’t wait, though. They’re under the same filing deadline as everyone else and there are only 24 hours in a day!