(WHTM) — Tax day is just one week away, and if you have not started yet, now is the time. The clock is ticking, but if you need more time, you can file an extension but only for paperwork, not payment.
“The first mistake is it’s an extension of time to file not pay, don’t think if I owe I’ll get an extension, and more importantly if you’re going to get an extension you’re pretty close to having it done already. A lot of our clients come in saying I need to do an extension. A little bit of work, one more phone call to a bank or broker and they file their taxes,” said Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt.
Hewitt says there are two big penalties if you miss the April 18 deadline — failure to file a tax return on time and failure to pay taxes.
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“File your taxes even if you can’t pay and you stop the failure to file penalty and you don’t have to worry about that one, but you will have a failure to pay penalty if you haven’t paid the majority of your taxes,” Steber explained.
Steber says the penalties are pretty bad, are all separate, and average about 25% plus interest of any underpaid balance.
“If you do owe, you can’t really ignore it. The failure to file penalty and the failure to pay penalty are two big ones and they add up very quickly, and in many cases, the penalties get larger than the tax liability in a short amount of time,” Steber added.
In fact, Steber says in many cases, the fear of owing outweighs the reality. Most people, when they file, will get money.
“There’s no good reason not to pay attention to your taxes and as I say, many people, three out of four, get a refund so you may think you owe — and maybe putting this dreadful thing off until later when you’re worried less but go see a pro today,” Steber said.
This is crunch time for tax preparers, which leads to one last important tip for those procrastinators.
“Don’t panic and go to some unscrupulous pop-up preparer. A lot of those people creep into the system at the last hour and they either look to price gouge or shortcut the service or do other bad things and steal your data,” Steber said.
Filing for an extension is a pretty easy process. You can do that online or with a tax broker. It gives you six more months to turn in the paperwork, but again, if you owe money, that is still due on tax day which is April 18.