preparation, your tax return — March 28, 2013

This is your two-minute warning...

by Bob Williams

tax timeIf you've checked your calendar today (and we certainly hope you have) you've seen that we are now in the month of April. And that means, of course, that we are also in the home stretch of the 2013 tax season.

If the reality of that hasn't quite soaked in yet, please allow us to throw a little light on the situation. And perhaps a little cold water for good measure.

If you who haven't filed your income taxes yet, you have less than 15 days to do so. Like my grandma used to say, "Time to bust a move."

But even with the shrinking window of opportunity, you still have some options. And a few minutes of lucid thinking here can save you hours of chaos-riddled panic on April 15.

Let's get started

First, let's find out just what route you need to take. If you've already filed your taxes (or an extension), give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, grab your beverage of choice and have a seat in the closest recliner. You can pick up your Free Pass to the Weekend at the door.

But if you haven't filed yet, you have some decisions to make. Do you intend to file your return now, or do you need an extension?

Those taxpayers with simple returns -- straightforward 1040s, 1040EZs and just W-2s to input -- should probably bite the bullet and "get 'er done." A little concentration and an hour or two on task should get you an e-filed return and a stint on that recliner. You have far more to gain by getting a straightforward return e-filed now, than by delaying it -- and any possible refund.

If you don't think you can get your return finished by the April 15 deadline -- if you're still missing W-2's, receipts or other necessary paperwork, for example -- an extension of time to file would be in order. On, you can simply sign into your account, and click the blue "Get a federal extension" button on the right side of the window. That can get you up to six months' time to get your return filed. And while the IRS doesn't demand a reason for the extension, we don't recommend an extension unless you really need one. The reason why will become apparent very shortly.

Pay Now - or Pay Later

You see, the IRS gives extensions of time to file. But they don't give an extension of time to pay if you owe any tax. Any tax due is still expected in the IRS' lap by April 15. Your situation may be different, but in general, taxpayers who have a balance due could face penalties if that balance isn't sent to the IRS by the deadline. Those penalties could be as much as 25 percent of the total tax owed.

If you do owe tax, you have options. If you are unable to pay the entire amount, you can send in what you can pay now, and the IRS will bill you for the remainder. Or you can go on the Web to sign up for the IRS's Online Payment Agreement that will set up a payment schedule to take care of that tax due.

To pay now, you can visit, where you'll have a number of credit card payment options, as well as the opportunity to pay your New York, Kansas or Illinois state taxes electronically.

For those due a refund, you can expect it to be issued by the IRS 21 days or less after they receive your return. If you chose to get a paper check, that will tack some time on for travel by U.S. Postal Service.

We understand that for some, the coming days will bring a range of emotions, ranging from mere annoyance to outright panic. As the days slip away, you may not be sure if that's your heart beating in your ears, or the sound of the IRS clock ticking down. While there's no time to waste, it's also no time to panic.

Extensions may not be best for everyone. But if there are no other issues, you still have time to file your return without an extension if you just dedicate some time and effort to the project.

And then you can catch some serious recliner time.

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