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Top 3 Tips for Late Tax Filers

So if the calendar flipping to April sent off a little alarm in the back of your mind but you haven't quite been able to put your finger on what it is you're forgetting to do, you might need to file your taxes. Don't panic -- you still have until the 17th. But you might want to start getting your paperwork together this week.

And here are three tips for you tax procrastinators to help with your last-minute filing.

1. Filing Taxes Late: What Are the Penalties?

How much you'll be penalized for filing your taxes late will depend on how much money you owe (if any) and just how late your filing is. Though it may vary from case to case, late-filing penalties are typically five percent of the tax owed, pro-rated for each day the return is late. (Although this late penalty is generally capped at five months or 25 percent of your total unpaid taxes.)

If your filing is late by more than 60 days, the minimum penalty can be either $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

2. How to File a Tax Extension

If you don't think you'll make the 17th deadline, you can file for an extension by filling out and submitting a Form 4868. Extensions are generally automatically granted and give you an additional six months to file.

Three caveats:

  1. The deadline for filing for an extension is the same as for filing your return: April 17th;
  2. While the first six month extension is automatic, the IRS normally won't grant any additional extensions, so if you don't file your taxes by the new October 17th deadline, you could face late filing fees and/or penalties on any unpaid taxes; and
  3. If you owe money to the IRS, interest starts accruing from the April 17th deadline.

3. Last Minute Tax Tips for Late Filers

If you do miss this year's tax deadline, you're not completely out of luck, but you might be out of a little more money. The filing process is the same, just be prepared for some late fees and interest.

If you need help with a last-minute tax filing, contact an experienced tax attorney.

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