Video: Tax tips for the last-minute filer

updated 4/14/2004 1:29:21 PM ET 2004-04-14T17:29:21

If you're one of the 30 million taxpayers waiting until the very last minute to file your tax return, the nation's tax collectors urge you to double-check your math and watch for common errors.

Taxpayers still working to beat the April 15 deadline can file electronically until midnight local time that day, or get in line at the post office with fellow procrastinators.

Rushing through returns can lead to errors, and errors can be costly, said John Battaglia, a tax director at Deloitte & Touche LLP.

"If you're rushing to do it last-minute, it may be a good idea to file an extension," he said.

This year's tax forms contain added complications, a result of lower taxes on investment income and bigger child tax credits passed last year.

The child tax credit calculation has already tripped up more than 2.3 million parents who have made errors by miscalculating their credit or forgetting to factor in the advance child credit check sent last summer.

Parents who can't remember whether they received a check, which was worth up to $400 per child, can use the Internal Revenue Service Web site to find out how much they have already been paid. Parents might also find, amid their tax documents, a letter they got from the IRS last summer reminding them of the amount paid.

Battaglia said taxpayers should also look through the forms sent by their banks and financial institutions to see if they received any corrected statements. A number of banks and brokers sent corrected Form 1099s to investors this spring as they refined their reports of dividend and capital gains under the new tax rates.

"Check your mail. If your mail's piled up in some corner you may have a corrected 1099 there," Battaglia said.

Some of the most common errors are simple ones, the IRS says, but they can cause an electronically filed return to be rejected or can delay the payment of a refund. They can even tip the tax return from a refund to a balance due, and lead to interest and penalties.

One common mistake is missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. The IRS urges taxpayers to double-check the numbers reported for themselves, spouses and children.

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Filers frequently make mistakes calculating the earned income tax credit, a benefit designed to increase the income of working families above the poverty level. Those claiming the credit, particularly those with children, should make sure they meet the qualifications.

Taxpayers also often misread the tax table at the back of the IRS instruction booklet _ one of the last steps before calculating whether to expect a refund or send a check. The IRS urges taxpayers to make sure they carry over the correct amount of tax owed.

If you're among the 10 million taxpayers who won't meet the April 15 deadline, now is the time to ask the IRS for an automatic four-month extension.

Taxpayers can extend their filing deadline to Aug. 15 by submitting IRS Form 4868. The simple form can be mailed, transmitted electronically or used as a worksheet to file by telephone. The toll-free number for extensions — 1-888-796-1074 — is available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time.

The automatic extension only gives taxpayers more time to file the paperwork, not to pay taxes due. The IRS charges interest on taxes not paid by April 15. Additional penalties may apply if the taxpayer paid less than 90 percent of taxes owed by the deadline.

Taxpayers who finish their taxes and find they can't pay the amount due should file the return. Penalties for not filing are much steeper than those assessed on late tax payments.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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