IRS OFFERS TIPS FOR LAST-MINUTE FILERS



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ces will have extended hours on April 15. IRS.gov has local office schedules, plus interactive tax aids, forms and publications for downloading and links to various companies offering free electronic filing through this year's Free File initiative. Many public libraries have basic tax forms available, along with reference copies of IRS publications.

Taxpayers sending a check or money order should make it payable to "United
States Treasury" and include their identification number, usually their
Social Security number, and the year and type of form filed - for example,
"2003 Form 1040." Joint filers should use the identification number of the first spouse listed on the return. Payments should not be stapled to the tax return.

Taxpayers may file and pay on time electronically until midnight of the deadline day. E-filers may pay by authorizing a no-fee electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account.

Those who cannot complete their returns on time may request an automatic extension to August 15. Form 4868 has details, including various options for getting an extension by filing or paying electronically. There is also a special toll-free number for requesting an extension by phone ? call 1-888-796-1074 (8:30am - 4:30pm local time, except Hawaii and Alaska use Pacific Time.)

An extension gives extra time for filing only, not for paying any balance due. Interest will apply to any tax not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if less than 90 percent of the total tax is paid on time. The interest rate, which may be adjusted each calendar quarter, is currently five percent per year, compounded daily.

The penalty for failing to file on time is five percent per month of the balance owed. If a taxpayer files more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty is $100 or the balance due, whichever is less. The penalty for paying late is 0.5 percent per month of the balance owed. This rate drops to 0.25 percent per month for an individual who files on time and enters into an installment agreement with the IRS to pay the balance owed. There is no late filing penalty on a refund return, but a taxpayer who fails to claim a refund within three years of the filing deadline generally loses the right to that refund.


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