12 Tips for Last-Minute Tax Filers

April 11, 2016

Washington, D.C. (April 11, 2016) – The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) answers the following questions that last-minute tax filers might have about filing their 2015 federal tax returns, which are due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) next week.

What’s the filing deadline?
The federal tax filing deadline is April 18 this year because it’s Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia.  Residents of Maine and Massachusetts don’t have to file their federal returns until April 19 because of their states’ Patriot Day holiday.

What should I do if I can’t file on time?
File for an automatic six-month extension if you cannot get your return prepared by the April filing deadline, using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.  Filing the form provides an automatic extension to October 17, 2016. 

If I file an extension, do I have to pay by the original filing deadline?
Yes!  Even if you file for the automatic extension, your tax bill must be paid by the original filing deadline of April 18.  So calculate a thorough estimate of the taxes you owe and, if you’re not sure it’s completely accurate, round up.  Another option is to look at last year’s return and pay in at least 100 percent of your total tax (Form 1040, line 63).  If you don’t pay or if you underpay, you’ll face interest and penalties on the unpaid balance of your tax liability.

How do I pay the taxes I owe if I’m filing for an extension?
Tax bills can be paid electronically using IRS Direct Pay, which accepts a direct transfer from your bank, a credit card or a debit card.  By phone, payments are accepted using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, which is a good option for business owners, although it requires enrollment.  If using a check or money order, the address of where to send the check or money order is on page four of Form 4868.

What should I do if I’m having financial difficulties?
Be sure to file your return or extension by the due date, even if you don’t have the money to pay your taxes.  You don’t want to add to your tax bill by triggering a failure to file penalty.  You should also contact the IRS immediately regarding installment agreements and offers in compromise.  Individuals who owe $50,000 or less can apply online on the IRS website for an Online Payment Agreement that establishes installment payments.  Certain businesses are also eligible to use the program.  You’ll know immediately if your installment agreement was accepted using the online tool.

When will I get my refund if I file for an automatic extension?
If you are expecting a refund, you will not receive it until you have filed your tax return.

Does filing for an extension with the IRS also give me an extension for submitting my state income tax return?
No.  Each state has different rules.  Be sure to check your state’s filing requirements for requesting an extension.

If I file an extension, should I wait until October to file my tax return?
No, you can file your tax return as soon as you’ve got it prepared.  And, if you owe taxes with the final return, you will minimize any accrued interest and penalties by filing and paying the taxes as early as possible.

How do I report my health insurance coverage?
It’s the same as last year.  Check the box on the appropriate line of Forms 1040EZ, 1040 or 1040A if you had qualifying health care coverage for every month of 2015 for yourself, your spouse and all your dependents.  However, this year to make it easier to keep track, employers and health insurers are providing information about health insurance coverage to taxpayers on Form 1095-A, 1095-B or 1095-C.  If you didn’t have the required coverage, claim a coverage exemption on Form 8965.  Otherwise, you’ll owe a shared responsibility payment.

What are my options for getting my tax return or extension form to the IRS?
The IRS strongly encourages taxpayers to file online at www.irs.gov/Filing.  A Certified Public Accountant can also electronically file your return for you.  If you prefer to mail your return, the U.S. Postal Service uses special procedures and maintains extra-long hours to make it as easy as possible for taxpayers who wait until just before midnight to get their returns in the mail.  You can also use one of the IRS-designated private delivery services.

What else should I remember?
Don’t overlook the basics!  Check your math to be sure it’s accurate, don’t forget to sign the return and double check the Social Security numbers to be sure they are correct.  Making any of these basic errors will generate an automatic letter to you from the IRS. And, if you are expecting a refund, this may significantly delay receipt.

What single thing can I do to make filing my taxes easier?
Be organized.  Don’t just dump documents into a drawer or leave tax-related messages sitting in your email in-box.  Make files for your different types of documents so you can sort them into the appropriate file as you receive them throughout the year.  For instance, you’ll need files for your receipts for tax deductions and credits and for income-related documents.  Examples of such documents are receipts for charitable contributions, mortgage interest payments, child and health care expenses, proof of tuition and other education expenses, W-2 and 1099 forms and rental income and retirement distribution statements.  This AICPA tax tips video may help you get organized.

Note to Editors: Still have questions? Contact us to speak with an AICPA tax expert. Email Shirley Twillman at stwillman@aicpa.org or call her at 202.434.9220.