How to File a Last-Minute 2010 Income Tax Return: Save Money, Get Free Tax Help & More!
Ever since high school, I've been preparing my own taxes. Each year it gets more and more complicated, which results in me filing later and later, avoiding it until I have the time or just can't wait any longer. I even resorted to using TurboTax online to help do some of the grunt work for me these past couple years, but that hasn't stopped me from being lazy about it. I have yet to file my 2010 taxes, but I will very soon. Tomorrow, in fact—before TurboTax raises their prices.
I wasn't aware that Intuit raised the price of TurboTax each year as it neared the end of filing season, but that's because I've never waited this long. But now I know better. On March 26th, the prices will increase by $20 or $25, so you need to get your taxes filed by midnight tomorrow night in order to lock in cheaper prices. As usual, their Free Edition is still free, and the extensive Business Edition will still cost $130, but all else will increase.
To receive the lowest price, make sure to complete your tax return and either file it electronically, or choose the "file by mail" option and print, by midnight on Friday, March 25th.
Here are some other quick tips to consider for filing a late 2010 tax return.
Step 1 File Now — Before It's Too Late
Normally, the deadlines for filing your tax return is on April 15th, but this year is a little different. Your State Income Tax Return is still due on the 15th, but your Federal Income Tax Return is not due until the 18th, due to requests for observance of Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia.
- April 18, 2011
Due date for Federal Income Tax Return
- April 15, 2011
Due date for State Income Tax Return
But you really shouldn't be waiting until the last day. Not surprisingly, the IRS states that 20% of all taxpayers wait until the last week to file their taxes. And most of those procrastinators actually have difficult returns to file and own money. If you're one of those people, maybe you should...
Step 2 Procrastinate Even More
If you're dreading filing because of a complicated tax year, maybe you should give yourself some time. If you file by April 18th and you owe money, your payment will be due on April 18th. If you don't have that money, then might think about opting for an extension.
But there are common misconceptions about extensions. Filing an extension does NOT necessarily postpone tax payment without penalty. If you owe taxes, you might be subject to late fees and IRS penalties even if filing an extension. So keep that in mind. If you think you can afford taxes later rather than now, then it might be worth the risk.
- April 18, 2011
Due date for Federal Income Tax Return Extensions
Filing the Form 4868 will give you an automatic 6 month tax return extension. Your new return filing date would be:
- October 17, 2011
Due date for the Extended Federal Income Tax Return
- If you miss the April 18th date to file for an extension, you can still wait until October 17th to e-file your tax return (after that you must print and mail it). But missing the extension request deadline will cause penalties and interest to increase your tax bill by up to 25%.
Step 3 Request a Payment Agreement
Though owed taxes are due on April 18th, you do have the option to set up a payment agreement between you and the IRS. If you're strapped for cash, make sure to file your return on time (unlike further procrastination in Step 2 above), and set up a Payment Agreement to minimize your penalties.
- Pay Taxes in Full
Doing so will avoid all unnecessary IRS penalties and interest. See how a full payment can save you money!
- Online Payment Agreement
If you're an individual who owes $25,000 or less in taxes and can pay the full amount in 60 months, you can setup an Online Payment Agreement. You can also call the number listed on your bill or notice. You can also grab a fill-in Request for Installment Agreement, Form 9465, that can be mailed to the address on your bill.
- Installment Agreement
If you're an individual who owes more than $25,000, you can set up an Installment Agreement. A Collection Information Statement, Form 433F may need to be completed. Call the number on your bill or mail the Request for Installment Agreement, Form 9465 and Form 433F to the address on the bill.
Step 4 Get Immediate Help — For Free
If you can't afford services like TurboTax and H&R Block, but need immediate help filing your tax return, try the IRS. They offer free assistance by computer, telephone and in person.
- IRS Website
Most questions you have can be answered on the IRS website. You can check out 1040 Central for the latest news and find all of the necessary documents for filing at Forms and Publications. Also, you can prepare your Federal Tax Return for free though Free File.
- IRS Telephone Assistance
A simple telephone call could solve all of your questions. Call the IRS Tax Help Line for Individuals at 800-829-1040. To hear pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics or check on the status of your refund, call 800-829-4477.
- IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers
If you can resolve your issues online or by phone, maybe a more personal, face-to-face connection will help. Visit the Contact My Local Office webpage to find locations near you, business hours and an overview of services. Select locations this year are even open on this Saturday, March 26th (see full list).
- Free Community Resources
You can get free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs in many communities. These programs provided through IRS and its partners offer free help in preparing simple tax returns for low-to-moderate-income taxpayers. Also, military personnel and their families can also file for free.
To learn some of the reasons you may want to visit one of the 400+ IRS offices nationwide, check out the IRS's article, Walk In; Eight Reasons to Visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
Step 5 Get Your Money
Okay. So you may be one of those lucky taxpayers who actually gets something back this year. If you've already filed and are wondering where your refund check is, you can check the status of your return with the IRS.
- If you filed online...
You can get information on your return 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt.
- If you filed by paper...
You can usually get information on your return in 3 to 4 weeks.
If you're expecting a refund, to get check the status of your 2010 Federal Tax Return, either:
- Call 800-829-4477 to check on the status of your refund, or
- Visit the Where's My Refund? online tool.
In order to find out your status, you'll need to provide the following information from your 2010 Federal Tax Return:
- Your Social Security Number (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
- Your Filing Status
- The exact whole dollar amount of your refund