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6 Last-Minute Tax Tips for Procrastinators

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

With just a few days to go until the April 18 tax-filing deadline, people who have not yet done their taxes may think they are doomed. But you still have time to save money on your taxes if you’re smart.

If you’re looking for information, the IRS has reams of advice on its website, including copies of tax forms and instructions. You can also watch dozens of video tutorials at the IRS YouTube channel.

Here are last-minute tax tips for procrastinators.

1. Get an extension

Panicked woman in front of a large clock
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If you truly can’t have your taxes done properly on time, don’t do them. You can get a six-month extension just by filing Form 4868, giving you until Oct. 17 to file this year.

If you owe money, however, you need to send the payment in by Tax Day (April 15 most years, April 18 this year).

2. File your taxes for free

Woman doing taxes on laptop
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Don’t rush out to buy tax software until you make sure you can’t use free online programs. The IRS Free File program works with commercial tax software companies to create free online filing tools for taxpayers with low and moderate incomes.

If you’ve never taken advantage of the many free tax-filing options out there, you could be missing out. There are several free or low-cost options available that will not only save you a few bucks but will help simplify the process as well. Note: Some free services aren’t available to homeowners or other taxpayers with itemized deductions.

If you prefer to handle your taxes the old-fashioned way, you may also be eligible for free in-person help with tax preparation. The IRS funds free tax preparation help in conjunction with AARP, local community groups and its own Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to taxpayers who meet income or age guidelines.

3. Open or contribute to an IRA

Roth IRA
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You can make previous-year contributions to a regular or Roth IRA, Coverdell plan or SEP through the tax filing deadline. If you still need to open an account, be warned that some companies’ processes are not instantaneous.

4. Pay by credit card

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Only do this if you have to. You want to pay what you owe by the tax deadline. If you can’t scrape up the cash, the IRS does take credit cards, but you’ll have to pay a fee to use them. If you face a large tax bill, you can ask the IRS for a payment plan or an installment agreement.

5. Check on your refund

Excited woman gestures thumbs-up while using a laptop
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If you’ve already filed your taxes and are wondering when you’ll receive your refund, you can track it at Where’s My Refund? on the IRS site.

6. Get professional help if you need it

Seniors at tax audit
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If you owe a large tax bill that you can’t pay, did a short sale or lost a home to foreclosure, incurred lots of medical bills, lost money in a business venture or otherwise have a complicated tax life, you should file for an extension and then find a good tax professional to handle your return. Their expertise can save you money and stress.

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