Don't panic if you haven't filed your taxes yet

April 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM ET

It’s almost tax day, and even if you really waited until the last minute this year, there are options out there for you.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you aren’t alone. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that 20 to 25 percent of taxpayers file in the final weeks before tax day.

Plenty miss the deadline as well: The IRS estimates that about 10.5 million taxpayers filed for an extension last year.

In total, the IRS processed about 145 million returns last year.

The good news: The IRS has made it pretty easy to ask for more time, using an online form that will give you a six-month extension.

The bad news: You still have to get some basic paperwork together to file for the extension. Most importantly, the IRS will ask you to pay up, at least based on the estimate for what you owe.

One thing you probably don’t want to do: Hide under a rock and pretend it isn’t happening. The IRS recommends filing the paperwork and paying what you can by April 17, in order to avoid or minimize late fees and other penalties.

There are also some options for folks who can’t pay. The IRS has expanded a program called “Fresh Start,” to help people who are unemployed and owe taxes, set up payment plans for people who owe less than $50,000 and even work with the IRS to settle some tax liabilities.

If you are filing at the last minute, chances are you’re moving rather quickly. The IRS also has some tips for avoiding common errors at the last minute. Among the common-sense tips: Don’t forget to sign and date the return.


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