Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
Let's get straight to it: Filing taxes isn't the most riveting way to pass your time. It's one of those things you know you need to do, that absolutely can't be avoided, yet it's so simple to put off or forget about. Everyone's 2016 taxes are due exactly one week from today, April 18, 2017. If you still need to file, you may be wondering about the best way to proceed. Yes, it may be getting down to the wire, but you still have options available. Keep reading for four last-minute tax tips that will have you breathing a sigh of relief.
First things first, if you're really running short on time, use an online tax filing service instead of banging down the door of your accountant. This rings especially true if you have straightforward taxes—single, no new dependents or mortgage. In that case, you can wrap up your tax filing within an hour if you do so electronically. All you'll need is your W-2 and your social security number. Online systems can help you avoid making mistakes while throwing together last-minute taxes.
Speaking of last-minute mistakes, be sure to proofread, even if you're in a rush. Double-check your that social security number is correct. If you're inputting numbers from your W-2 into an electronic form, read those back to yourself. If you're filling out taxes on paper, double-check the math. Sure, you're not doing trigonometry, but pull out a calculator and use it, even for the simplest addition—it's easy to flub numbers when you're in a hurry. Also, be sure your tax form is signed and dated.
Contribute to a Roth IRA
Remember that if you have an IRA or Roth IRA account, you can only contribute up to $5500 a year if you're under 50. This is a good time to make any last-minute contributions, as your deadline for 2016 taxes is also April 18. Contributions to an IRA are also tax deductible; Roth IRA contributions, however, aren't.
Request an Extension
If all else fails and you really don't have the time to fill out your taxes, request an extension using Form 4868. Extensions for 2016 must be submitted by April 18, 2017. Generally, requests are granted automatically, and you don't need to state a reason for your extension. This will give you an additional six months to complete your 1040. Keep in mind that this form doesn't extend the time you have to pay taxes you owe. If you don't pay taxes, interest will accumulate until you do so.
Ready, Set, File:
Not sure which tax filing service to use? Keep reading for the pros and cons of the most popular tax filing services.