Last-minute tax tips

April 14, 2010 3:13:57 PM PDT
Help! It is April 14th and I have yet to file my tax return! Don't panic. You still have time. You need to access your situation and get a plan together. As long as the envelope has a postmark of April 15th, your return will not be late. Three Chicago area post office locations have extended hours on April 15th (until midnight the 16th), making it possible for you to make the deadline:
  • The Chicago Main Post Office, 433 W. Harrison Street, which will have collectors stationed along Harrison and Canal Streets from late Thursday afternoon to midnight to accept dropped-off tax returns from customers.
  • The Carol Stream Processing & Distribution Center, 500 E. Fullerton Avenue,
  • and the Palatine Processing and Distribution Center, 1300 E. Northwest Highway.
  • Visit www.usps.com/tax/welcome.htm. Although you might feel rushed to file your return, it is extremely important to take the time and make sure your return is correct and contains all necessary paperwork.

    Another option is to file for an extension. If you do choose to go this route, just remember, this is an extension for filing, NOT an extension for any taxes that you may owe. It simply gives you more time to get your paperwork together. The IRS website, which is www.irs.gov, can be helpful to you. There, you will find the form 4868, which you will need to file for an extension and other tips to complete the process correctly.

    There is still time - 2 full days

    Go to www.irs.gov for information, resources and forms

    Accuracy is everything

    What are some common mistakes last-minute filers should try to avoid?

    By spending a few extra minutes preparing your return, some of the most common mistakes can easily be avoided, saving people valuable time and money. The number one mistake is incorrect math. Be sure to double and triple check your work before you send it in. If you need help, tax preparation places like H&R Block are still an available option for assistance. For more detailed filers, there is a modest fee starting at $50.00. For basic tax situations, visit www.hrblock.com or other well-respected sites like www.freetaxusa.com , where you can file your federal taxes for free and your state taxes starting as low as $10.00. The second most common taxpayer mistake is sending the return to an incorrect address. If you received a return address envelope with your tax package be sure to use it. If not, check the IRS website to see where you need to send your return as some filing locations have changed. Also, it is important to know that the IRS will not process your return unless it is signed and dated. This is another common mistake and the most avoidable one.

    What about any new tax deductions or deductions/credits that are frequently overlooked?

    All new deductions for the 2009 tax season are available on the IRS website; however, here are some that I would like to highlight. The unemployment rate for Illinois has been hovering around 11%, so those receiving benefits should know that the first $2,400 is not taxed. Another important deduction that should be taken advantage of is the sales tax on new car purchases. If you purchased a new car between February 17th, 2009 and December 31st. 2009, you can deduct the sales tax. This applies for people making less than $125,000 and for cars that cost up to $49,500. Also, the government is always looking to provide tax breaks for homeowners who make energy efficient improvements to their home. For the 2009 and 2010 tax season, the tax credit has been increased to 30% of the cost of the improvement up to $1,500 and many of the dollar limits for other green improvements have been removed.

    What should people do with tax refund?

    According to the IRS website, the average tax refund is $2,488. It might be tempting to purchase a big ticket item when you receive your refund, however, you should step back and take a look at your financial situation. The average amount of credit card debt for households that carry a balance is around $11,000. The absolute best use of your refund is to reduce this type of high-interest debt. If you are clear of any debt, now is a good time to increase your savings. A neat way to trick yourself into saving is to have your refund directly deposited into your savings account which lessens the chance you will spend it.

    Pay off high interest debt

    Add to savings

    Don't be tempted to splurge


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