Your 2015 Tax-Prep Road Map: A Quarter-by-Quarter Guide for Getting Ahead

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taxes 2014It’s April 15, which means many of you are probably breathing a sigh of relief. You’ve either already filed your tax returns or are e-filing them as we speak—and you’re ready to take a break from thinking about taxes.

Not so fast.

This isn’t a time to rest on your laurels. Instead, you should think about how you can avoid the last-minute scramble (or hefty tax bill) next year by getting organized in the months to come.

We consulted tax pros to weigh in on the small, quarterly to-dos you can consider tackling throughout the year ahead, so that come April 15, 2015, there may be less fear, less stress and hopefully fewer worries when it comes to doing your taxes.

Your Tax To-Dos: Second Quarter 2014

April 15: We know, we know—tax day always seems to creep up on you. If you haven’t yet filed, run to your local post office before it closes tonight, so that your snail mail returns for 2013 will be postmarked by today, or e-file them by midnight.

And if you’ve waited this long, you might as well squeeze in some last-minute traditional or Roth IRA contributions, if you can afford to—April 15 is the last day to fund those retirement accounts and have it count toward your 2013 returns. (For the 2013 tax year, the contribution limit for those under 50 is $5,500; if you’re 50 or older, you can contribute up to $6,500.)

Aren’t ready to send in your return? Consider filing for an extension using Form 4868—just remember that you still have to pay what you might owe, says Bob Wheeler, CPA and author of “The Money Nerve: Navigating the Emotions of Money.” That’s because the extension only affords you more time to file—not more time to pay.

And if you’re self-employed, you have to pay your estimated taxes for first-quarter 2014 by today using the estimated tax payment voucher, also known as Form 1040-ES. Don’t be late or you may be subject to underpayment interest, which is interest charged for not paying enough of what you owe, says Kerri Bogda, senior manager of Tax Services at the accounting firm ParenteBeard. “And you should consider mailing the voucher with a return receipt for proof of mailing,” she adds.

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