Tax Tips for Procrastinators

So when was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?  Senior year in high school?  College?

C’mon, we’re all friends here. If you’re like most of us, you relive those nights chock full of cheap caffeine and clichés, typing right up to the last minute, every early April.

That’s when taxes are due.

Don’t waste time apologizing, procrastinators. Here are some last minute tips that mix quite well with your cooling coffee to get you to April 17th in the best shape possible. They’re pretty basic, but in the fog of these final moments, you can forget your name, or worse, Social Security number, so here you go:

1. On-line? Right on! E-file.  It’s easy, convenient and most importantly, accurate (only 1% of mistakes on refunds vs. 20% for paper returns). Plus, you get your refund in a matter of days – less than a week if you take advantage of direct depositing the money Uncle Same owes you. Compare that to the six weeks you may have to wait if you file a paper return.

2. Be Santa Claus: check your list, not once, but twice. Especially when it comes to Social Security numbers. An incorrect number or one that is just plain hard to read can put the brakes on your refund. And remember to SIGN YOUR RETURN.  Plus, don’t forget to get your address correct, and your banking and routing number if you direct deposit. Think this isn’t important? Then, get a load of this number: $153 million.  That’s how much the IRS is trying to return in undelivered tax refund checks – all sitting in Uncle Sam’s wallet because of mailing errors.

3. Know when to hold and when to fold! If it’s the morning of April 17th, your vision is blurry and your calculator spitting smoke, you are up against the deadline and simply can’t get the papers together and the numbers added correctly to put together your return, say UNCLE!  Uncle Sam! You can file for an extension and take some extra time to file properly.  Of course, you do have to pay your estimated tax or face penalties and interest that would make your big bank blush, but it’s worthwhile to buy some time.

4. And while you’re at it….think about going pro! Yes, you can probably do your own taxes, but if you have waited this long to put them together, it’s probably because something is a hurdle for you. If you have already filed for an extension, there may be a reason you can’t get this done besides your procrastination. You can dump the documents on a CPA and count on him to help you figure out some of the more troubling of your tax issues. If I could marry my accountant, I would -- but he’s already taken -- and unfortunately, he has no twin, so I just depend on Marvin to be stable, never lie to me or the government, and to speak plain English about an arcane tax code that is a different language to me. Honestly,  he is the only person I know who answers my emails on a Saturday night and puts up with my tears when I tell him I just don’t get why I can’t deduct my home office.

If you’re a last minute filer, a CPA may be for you, tears or no.

So, get through that all-nighter. The deadline is fast approaching. Oh, and one last tip: just as in college, a good pint of Haagen Dazs will help the work seem a bit easier.