If you haven’t filed your federal tax return yet, you probably should file for an extension. Or talk with your accountant. Or at least begin gathering documents.
You might want to do any number of things — except panic, experts told us. After all, you’re in good company.
“Definitely the volume (of returns) certainly increases the closer you get to the filing deadline,” said Cari Weston, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants director of taxation.
The deadline to file 2015 federal tax returns is Monday, about three days later than usual thanks to a little-known Washington, D.C. holiday, Emancipation Day. The Ohio individual income tax filing deadline is also Monday.
And no: If you believe you’re due a refund, you shouldn’t ignore the deadline.
”Let’s say if something happens down the road, and you’re audited,” said Weston, a CPA. “There are certain statutory periods that start. And it could cause you trouble back to that original date.”
File for an extension — giving yourself six extra months — by completing and submitting Form 4868.
But an extension does not give you more time to pay. Accountants advise clients to estimate the taxes they owe and round up (not down) in their estimate. They might also look at last year’s return and pay at least 100 percent of their total tax.
An unpaid liability means interest and penalties.
Weston describes herself as a “fan of filing for extensions.” Extensions protect taxpayers, she said.
“At this point, frankly, if you have a refund coming, you should just get an extension and worry about it in the first week of May,” said Bill Duncan, a CPA with accounting firm Thorn Lewis & Duncan.
Weston wouldn’t encourage anybody to rush in preparing a return. Pull together everything you have and start the work, she advised. If you look like you may be due a refund, and perhaps a document or two is missing, go ahead and file for an extension.
One wrinkle this year is the Affordable Care Act form 1095, said Joel Veldt, a CPA and tax preparer at Dayton tax service firm Ladd & Carter.
The government decided to let businesses wait until March 31 — relatively late in the tax season — to send out the 1095 forms, Veldt said. Form 1095-C describes what health insurance coverage was available to employees. Another form, the 1095-B, provides information about an employee’s actual insurance coverage, including who in an employee’s family was covered.
“We had to do most of the tax season without those forms,” Veldt said. “We had to kind of ask questions and fill out a worksheet and guess at it.”
He quipped that the ACA has probably convinced 10 percent of the CPA profession to retire in the past year.
Still, the extra leap year day and slightly later deadline do give taxpayers a bit of extra breathing room, he said.
Although Duncan sees it differently.
“It makes us more grumpy because it’s another weekend we have to work,” he said with a laugh.
CPAs are always putting in more hours at this time of year.
“I’ve worked every single day since Feb. 1,” Duncan said. “A lot of our preparers are working 60-, 65-hour weeks.”
One problem in in the final run-up to the filing deadline is simple logistics: Finishing returns, arranging for delivery and pick-up of documents and of course, paying the Internal Revenue Service, if taxes are in fact due.
If you haven’t started working on your taxes, Veldt’s advice is simple: Start. Get an idea of whether you’re due a refund or whether you owe, and if so, how much.
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