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You have about two weeks left before your taxes are due; here are some quick tips to getting 'em done, getting any refund you are due quicker, and setting yourself up for next year.
Locate your favorite and trusted tax resource. Whether it is a Tax Pro you have confidence in or self-preparation software that you have researched, using a trusted resource helps ensure you identification is safe, you take advantage of all the deductions and credits you can, and all the calculations are done correctly.
Use a copy of last year's tax return to help you complete this year's return. Make note of changes to your investments, jobs, housing, or even more important life - like getting married or having a baby. Make sure you have all the documents you had last year, unless you closed accounts, or changed jobs, you should have a document from each of the same places. If you are using an online program or a Tax Pro, you can probably get a prior-year comparison report that can help you identify potential missing information, miss-entered information, or areas you should consider making changes to for next year.
E-file. E-filing your return ensures you get a receipt with a time and date stamp from the IRS when the return is received and acknowledged. If your return has an error that stops the IRS from processing right away, such as an incorrectly entered Social Security Number, the IRS notifies you immediately so you can correct the issue and resubmit your return, helping you to file on time. E-file is also the most secure way of filing your return and protecting your personal information.
Select Direct Deposit or Direct Payment. Allowing the IRS to directly deposit your refund into your bank account ensures you receive your money as quickly as possible. If you owe money, have the IRS directly debit your bank account for your payment on the date you choose. This way, you have proof the IRS received payment based on the transaction information in your account and your account information is not sent through the mail on a check.
Hire a Tax Pro. It is easy to leave deductions, credits, or even income off your tax return and the health care laws make taxes even more complex this year than in the past. Take advantage of someone who has the time and the knowledge to file an accurate return. A Tax Pro can help you make sure you take advantage of all the deductions and credits you are entitled to so your refund is as large as it should be (or your balance due is as low as it can be). Most will e-file your return and use direct deposit or direct payment. And another benefit of using a Tax Pro is that you can get advice for reducing your taxes in the future. If you really want to do it yourself, there are many good products, but it is a good idea to consider a free review from time to-time or use a Tax Pro every other year to make sure you are NOT missing a big credit, deduction, or tax benefit.
File later if you absolutely must. Filing an extension may just be the breathing room you need to ensure you have all the information together. The new due date for your tax return is October 15, but beware an extension allows you to file your paperwork after April 15 without being penalized for filing late BUT any taxes owed are still due on April 15. If you do not pay any amounts you owe by April 15, you will be penalized for paying late even if you filed an extension. Another word of caution, while the IRS doesn't penalize you for filing your Federal return late if you are due a refund, many states do. If you're unsure, check with a Tax Pro to find out how your state handles taxes. File now, pay tax liability with installments.
Worth mentioning while we are talking about taxes and deadlines, is that the Health Insurance Marketplace has one last chance for you to get coverage in 2015 if you owed the fee when you filed your 2014 taxes. Don't risk having to pay the fee again next year and apply for coverage for the remainder of 2015 now. The fee increases to $325 per person or 2 percent of your household income - whichever is higher for next year. So if you find that you the fee for not having insurance for the entire year for 2014, after you file your taxes you should apply for health coverage BEFORE April 30, 2015.
There is still plenty of time to get your taxes prepared and filed. If you do owe, you can prepare and file your taxes today and wait to pay them until April 15. The bottom line, get 'em done, as 75% of taxpayers have already done so you can get your refund in your pocket sooner.