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Late skate? 3 tips on tax day

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Posted: 11 am ET

Tax day 2012 is finally here. Even though most Americans get refunds, we still hate having to fill out the forms.

And today is it for those of us who haven't yet filed. Yes, I'm right there with you.

If we don't get our 1040 or Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File, on the way to the Internal Revenue Service by midnight, we could face bigger tax bills. The IRS assesses penalties for nonfiling and nonpayment, and the one for not sending in your return is tougher than the nonpayment penalty.

As you hunker down to finish up your taxes, here are my three top tips.

1. Get an extension. Tax filing time is ticking away. That means that you're probably in a near tax panic. Stop. Take a breath. Have another cup of coffee. Then file for an extension. It's much better to get your finalized tax return properly completed than to just be done with it. By giving yourself up to six more months (the extension deadline is Oct. 15), you can make sure you haven't made any mistakes or overlooked any tax breaks.

2. Pay something. Of course, an extension to file is just that, more time to finish your 1040 but not more time to pay what you owe. By now you've probably done some work on your return, so you have an idea of your tax bill. Pay as much as you can with your extension. You have a lot of tax payment options.

3. Don't do this again. I know, I've said it myself, that I won't put myself in the position of scrambling to file my taxes or an extension at the very last minute. This time I am going to follow through on this pledge and you should, too.

Whenever you do wrap up your filing tasks, evaluate why you ended up facing this last-minute hassle. Were you just totally unorganized? Set up a system to get your 2012 taxes in shape right now.

Did you owe much more than you expected? Adjust your withholding so that the payments come out regularly through the year instead of you facing a large lump-sum tax bill.

Why are you filing on tax day? What will you do differently so that tax day 2013 isn't so crazy?

Although today marks the end of Bankrate's free Daily Tax Tip, the tax help will continue. You can stay up to date on tax news and tips via our free Weekly Tax Tip newsletter.

You also can follow me on Twitter @taxtweet.

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