The April 15 deadline has come and gone, and if you haven’t filed your tax return, here’s what you need to do to avoid getting in trouble with the IRS.
You should work to file as soon as you can, especially if you owe income taxes because penalties will rack up each month that the tax return remains unfiled. If you filed an extension, know that the extension only gives you extra time to file not extra time to pay. Your tax liability is due and payable on April 15. That means you have to do a bit of figuring to determine if and how much you might owe--might as well have done the return, right?
The best way to file late is electronically since a mailed tax return takes considerably longer and delivery isn’t guaranteed. The IRS sends an electronic confirmation once it accepts an electronically- filed return, providing some piece of mind. E-file is available through October 15 for the filing of 2012 income tax returns.
IRS Free-File is still available, and according to the IRS, “If your income is $57,000 or less, you qualify to e-file your return using brand name software.” If you make more than $57,000 you can still use the Free File Fillable Forms on the IRS website in order to input and electronically file your income tax return. Follow this link: Free-File-Fillable-Forms.
If you owe taxes but cannot pay the entire amount, pay as much as you can. You can attach IRS Form 9465 Request for Installment Agreement to your tax return to set up a payment arrangement. Simply fill out the form and indicate how much you are paying with the tax return, how much you can pay each month and payment dates.
Read the Instructions for Form 9465 Installment Agreement carefully to make sure this form applies to you. There is a user fee, which is reduced if you elect auto debit payments from your bank account. The user fee is added to your balance owing, so you don’t pay it up front. It takes a couple of months for the IRS to process the request, but don’t wait for approval, start making payments if able.
If you already have an installment agreement in place and find yourself owing for the current year, don’t file a new Form 9465. Simply call and ask that the two balances be combined. This shouldn’t be an issue however, if you owe for more than two years, expect some resistance. The IRS will want to know why you aren’t making estimated tax payments or why payroll withholding is insufficient to meet your liability.
If you can pay off the tax bill within six months, save yourself the user fee and don’t bother with the installment agreement. Your return will not be assigned to a revenue officer. During this period you will receive notices and billings spit out from its main computer system. You will receive your first bill once your tax return is processed – usually within 30 days . Pay what you can with the bill and make payments thereafter as you can. Be sure to put your social security number and the words “2012 Form 1040” on the memo line of the check.
On the upside, maybe you are entitled to a refund. You may not even have a filing requirement, but a refund may be due to you. For example, perhaps you worked part time making only a few grand but had federal taxes withheld or are entitled to certain tax credits. File now so you can get the refund. Direct deposit of your tax refund is an option that doesn’t cost a dime extra. In fact, it speeds up your refund and is safer than a snail mailed check.
Bonnie Lee is an enrolled agent admitted to practice and representing taxpayers in all 50 states at all levels within the Internal Revenue Service. She is the owner of Taxpertise in Sonoma, Calif., and the author of Entrepreneur Press book, “Taxpertise, The Complete Book of Dirty Little Secrets and Hidden Deductions for Small Business that the IRS Doesn't Want You to Know.” Her new e-book Taxpertise for the Creative Mind Murder, Mayem, Romance, Comedy and Tax Tips for Artists of all Kinds is available at all major booksellers. Follow Bonnie Lee on Twitter and on Facebook.