What To Do If You Haven't Finished Your Taxes Yet!

What To Do If You Haven't Finished Your Taxes Yet!

Today is April 15th and your tax return isn’t complete. Not even close.

Calm down, take a deep breath, and apply for an automatic six-month extension from the government; all you have to do is ask. Here's how:

1. File By Mail Or Online.

To get an extension, you absolutely MUST file a request today. Either download and fill out IRS Form 4868, or else use an online service such as TaxAct or TurboTax, either of which will let you e-file for an automatic extension for free.

2. Figure Out Who Owes Whom.

Do you owe money to the IRS, or will you be getting a refund? It’s an important question, because the automatic extension gives you extra time to file your tax return, but not to pay your taxes. If your taxes have already been paid through withholding and you know you’ll be getting a refund, then you can skip the next two steps.

3. Calculate Your Taxes.

Fine, so, if you had calculated your taxes by now, you wouldn’t need an extension in the first place. We understand, but trust us: If you can get a general idea of how much you owe, you may avoid paying interest unnecessarily. Also, you’ll have to enter an estimated tax amount when you file for an extension. That said, you don't have to spend forever crunching numbers--it only takes about 30 seconds to get a very general estimate of what you owe using an online tax calculator.

4. Pay What You Owe.

If the calculator shows that you do owe money to the government, pay it now. Otherwise, Uncle Sam will charge you interest until you do. (Read this if you don’t have the money to pay your taxes right now.)

5. Breathe A Sigh Of Relief. Now Get To Work!

You now have until October 15th to file your tax return—but don’t wait that long! If you owe money to the IRS, you’ll only be charged more and more as the interest mounts up. Meanwhile, if you’re due for a refund, you won't get your money until you file. If you need help figuring out your taxes, you may even qualify for free tax software or help from the IRS.

Whatever you do, don’t let October 15th become the new April 15th. Get a jump start now!

Minda is vice president of The American Society of Journalists and Authors, and co-author of The Geek Gap.

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