Cutter Family Finances: Haven't Filed Taxes Yet? What To Do Now

Jeffrey CutterRichard Maclone Photography - Jeffrey Cutter

Herman Wouk, the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning American author once said, “Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.” And Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind said this, “Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”

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So, with the tax deadline just around the corner, the pressure is on for the procrastinators who still haven’t filed their taxes—and if you’re one of those people struggling to get them done, here are some tips to help you.

First let’s talk about the deadline for filing. You have until Tuesday, April 15, to pay your taxes. Whether you are filing by snail mail or online electronically, remember you must have your return postmarked or time-stamped by 11:59 PM Tuesday night or Uncle Sam may ask for extra money from you in the form of penalties and interest. And who wants that... so what do we do?

Just like with anything in life, when we procrastinate, we make mistakes. If you have procrastinated, the number one thing you should focus on when doing your taxes is to do them correctly. Two of the most common mistakes that people make on their tax returns are listing an incorrect Social Security number and doing the math wrong. These mistakes are completely avoidable, but sometimes in the last-minute rush, people make them. Be sure to double-check your math because errors can cost you money with a lower tax refund. Even worse, those mistakes can also flag you for an audit. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, software such as Turbo Tax can help you avoid costly errors.

If you find yourself completely out of time, you can file for an extension. Many folks think that filing an extension is a bad thing that is “frowned upon” by the IRS. However, the folks at the IRS would actually prefer that people ask for an extension and get it right the first time, than file by April 15 and make mistakes on their return. So if you can’t get all of your paperwork together by the deadline, an extension will give you an extra six months to file, until October 15.

Another thing to remember is that there is no fee for filing an extension. Basically, there are two penalties the IRS can impose: a late filing fee and a late payment fee. So, even if you file an extension and you get your return in by October 15, you may still get hit with a late payment fee if you have not calculated or estimated and paid your taxes by April 15. However, you can avoid the late filing fee altogether.

So, estimate the taxes you will owe, pay your taxes (based on that estimate) with your extension by April 15 and make sure you get your return filed by October 15. Usually, paying 110 percent of last year’s taxes with your extension is sufficient to protect you from those unwanted penalties.

The biggest downside to filing an extension is being forced to wait longer for your money, if you are expecting a refund.

Lastly, I recommend filing your return electronically. Filing electronically will not only help you avoid those long lines at the post office, but will also get your return processed sooner. If you are expecting a refund, you can get your money faster by using direct deposit into your bank account. Furthermore, direct deposit is a safer way to get your refund because a check will not sit in your mailbox, asking to be stolen.

Once you have filed, you can track your refund through the Internal Revenue Service at irs.gov. In case you are having trouble finding it, I have included a link on my website to the IRS page where you can check the status of your refund.

Be vigilant and stay alert, because you deserve more!

Jeffrey Cutter, CPA, PFS is the managing partner from Cutter Financial Group, LLC (www.cutterfinancialgroup.com) which provides private wealth and investment management through low risk, low volatility successful strategies because you don’t have to lose in order to gain.  He can be reached at jeff@cutterfinancialgroup.com.

Investment advice is offered by Horter Investment Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Insurance and annuity products are sold separately through Cutter Financial. Securities transactions for Horter Investment Management clients are placed through Pershing Advisor Solutions, Trust Company of America, Jefferson National Monument Advisor, Fidelity,  Security Benefit Life and FC Stone. 
 

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