Tax Day: Haven’t filed? Here’s what to do

Today is the deadline to file federal and Ohio tax returns. If you haven’t filed yet, relax — you’re in good company.

But don’t relax too much. There are still a few things you need to do.

Many individual filers have already filed. According to the latest data, the Internal Revenue Service had received 103.5 million returns as of April 5, down only 0.3 percent from the same point in 2018.

Refunds issued as of April 5 total about $220.8 billion, down 2.6 percent from 2018.

But certified public accountant William Duncan of local firm Thorn Lewis and Duncan Inc. estimated that a quarter of his clients are securing extensions on filing their personal returns in order to determine proper pass-through deductions.

Duncan’s clients tend to be entrepreneurs who own pass-through entities, basically small businesses confronting plenty of changes after the federal tax law passed in late 2017.

And no, don’t count on the IRS being more understanding of late filers even with this year’s array of tax changes taking effect.

“It’s so easy to file an extension form,” Duncan said. “Just fill out a one-page piece of paper.”

If you're reading this today and you haven't filed, that's what you need to do: Complete IRS Form 4868, an application for an automatic extension of time to file your individual tax return.

Be warned: That form secures additional time to file — but not to pay. You still need to make a good-faith estimate of how much you owe, if you do owe.

“That’s kind of the tricky thing,” said April Walker, lead manager on the tax practice and ethics team at the American Institute of CPAs. “I always tell people: It’s better to estimate.”

Ohio does not have a separate extension form for state taxes but allows the same extension as the IRS — and again, the extension is for filing, not paying.

Filers must include with their Ohio individual income tax returns copies of their IRS extensions or extension confirmation numbers.

“Don’t forget about the state,” Walker said.

She said that while it’s “technically true” that people who are due refunds don’t need to file today, she cautioned against that. Penalties based on late filing are calculated based on taxes due, but it’s not a good practice to simply not file or to file late, she said.

And of course: No return, no refund.

If you do owe but you can’t pay now, you can request a payment installment plan, propose a compromise or ask the IRS to temporarily delay collection until your financial situation improves, Walker said.

“Know if you owe,” she said.

Get on the phone with your CPA, if you haven’t already, both Duncan and Walker said. They can file an extension for you if you’re still gathering forms and information.

And if you don’t have a CPA — good luck getting one today.

“There aren’t a lot of CPAs who are going to take calls from a brand new client on April 15,” Duncan said.

If you’re finalizing your return, Walker said this may be a good time to look at your 2019 withholding amounts to perhaps increase withholding amounts if you end up owing money this year or increase withholding because you received what you felt was too big a refund.

Last-minute filing tips

File with the IRS for a six-month extension if you can't get your return prepared by today's filing deadline, using Form 4868.

Tax bills can be paid electronically using IRS Direct Pay, which accepts a direct transfer from your bank, a credit card or a debit card.

Financial difficulties? Be sure to file your return or extension by the due date, even if you don't have the money to pay your taxes. You don't want to add to your tax bill by triggering a failure to file penalty. You should also contact the IRS immediately regarding installment agreements and offers in compromise.

Source: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

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