Filing Your Tax Return at the Eleventh Hour

Maybe you’ve put off filing your return because you think you’re going to owe. Perhaps you’ve been carefully determining precisely how to file, or who to enlist to help. Maybe you just waited until the last minute. Whatever the case, there are a few important items to keep in mind as you nervously watch the hands on the clock moving towards April 15th.

First and foremost, don’t count on any help from the Internal Revenue Service this year. As of mid-February, relatively early for tax season, only 43% of callers actually got through to an IRS agent on the phone. Those who did waited an average of 28 minutes for the privilege. Needless to say, your chances of reaching someone during the month of April are slim to none. Why the sharp decline in taxpayer assistance? The IRS cites budget cuts, staffing deficiencies and additional processing duties, such as Affordable Care Act reporting, as primary factors in this season’s abysmal service. So, what happens, then, when you have questions about how to file this year? What method of operation is left for you, the wayward taxpayer?

Research is Not a Dirty Word

Despite the relative ease with which we have access to information about everything these days, there’s a bizarre stigma around doing your own research. Nevertheless, getting a question answered about your taxes may be as simple as trying an internet search. Questions about claiming a dependent or deductions for college expenses? Your home away from home may be online this year, particularly at IRS.gov. The government site has answers to virtually any individual or business tax-related inquiry. IRS.gov also boasts informational updates, such as scams to watch out for, and instructional pages that take you through how to file your return.

Picking a Tax Preparer

The other nice thing about the internet is that it is bursting with details on tax preparers – local and nationally-recognized. If you need help this year, you can talk to agents through online chats, visit informational forums and, most importantly, read preparer reviews. No matter which individual or business you consider for your filing needs, make sure you to take a close look at their credentials. What do other clients have to say about them? What is the preparer’s background and experience? Does he or she have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, indicating they’re recognized by the IRS? Be cautious as you traverse the tumultuous online terrain.

Tax Debts and Special Circumstances

There’s a chance that you need more than a light touch when it comes to handling your taxes. If, for instance, you’re catching up on your returns after years of not filing, definitely consider special assistance. In the event that you’re going to have a tax liability, or you’re already dealing with a tax debt, a licensed tax professional may be your best option. Regardless of whether you handle such an issue by the April 15th filing deadline, it’s best to seek help as soon as you can. Whatever debt you have or you expect to incur will only increase as time ticks away; penalties and interest can create a staggeringly higher amount due than the original debt.

Never Too Early to Plan

Whatever this tax season holds for you, however you need to proceed, it’s a good idea to start thinking about next year. After all, what you do for the remainder of 2015 will dictate what to expect when you next season rolls around. And while you might not traditionally be a planner, you should consider adjusting your strategy in light of recent events at the IRS. The last thing you want is a tax problem that could have been avoided with a little preemptive action. You can take some small comfort in the fact that you’re not alone in this endeavor; help is just a call, or a click, away.

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