10 most important tax deadlines in 2016

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The 5 Most Common Tax Filing Mistakes

When you think about filing taxes, you might focus on that specific cutoff day in mid-April. However, the deadline for filing taxes isn't the same for everyone. Tax day can vary based on the type of work you do and where you live.

More importantly, there are a number of other important tax deadlines that occur along the way. That's one reason people call the first several months of the year tax season. See which tax deadlines apply to you.

1. Deadline for Filing Most Tax Returns

This year, the big tax day for most people is April 18 instead of April 15, due to Emancipation Day. People in Maine and Massachusetts have until April 19 to file taxes because April 18 is Patriots Day in those states.

"If you reach the filing deadline, and don't have the money [to pay your taxes], it's better to go ahead and file and set up a payment plan. Otherwise, you'll face penalties for failure to file and failure to pay," said Goble.

2. Deadlines to Receive Income Forms

Employers are supposed to provide you W-2 forms for your wages by Feb. 1. If you were self-employed or worked as a contractor, any clients that paid you over $600 last year must issue you a 1099-MISC by Feb. 1. (You still have to file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more, whether or not a client sent you a form.)

By Feb. 15, you should have received the tax documents for most other forms of income, too — including real estate transactions, retirement distributions, interest and dividends and winnings from gambling.

"You can't just ignore income because you didn't receive a form. If you earned it, you have to report it. Otherwise, the penalty compounds quite rapidly," said Scott Goble, founder of Sound Accounting. The penalty for failure to pay is ½ of 1 percent of the unpaid taxes, charged monthly, up to 25 percent and the penalty for failure to file is usually 5 percent of the taxes due, which is also charged monthly up to 25 percent.

If you haven't received your forms, contact the party responsible for sending them. If you don't get any results that way, contact the IRS and get a copy. Either way, be sure to file with all your forms.

View the top tips to avoid a tax audit:

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10 most important tax deadlines in 2016

Double check your figures to assure there are no mistakes

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Be sure to be 100% honest, and report your numbers realistically

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Those in the highest and lowest income brackets are most often targets of fraud, and thus, audits

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Don't draw too much attention with unusual or unrealistic deductions

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Filing returns electronically drastically reduces errors

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3. Deadlines for Household Employers

If you had hired help in your home, such as a nanny, maid, groundskeeper or private nurse, and you paid over $1,900 in wages last year, you're considered a household employer. Like other employers, you're required to provide your workers with W-2 forms by Feb. 1.

You also have to submit W-2 and W-3 forms to the Social Security Administration by Feb. 29. If you file electronically, the deadline is March 31. You'll also need to file a Schedule H and pay your household employment taxes with your tax return.

If you miss these tax deadlines, get the forms out immediately. The penalty for failing to provide W-2s is $250 per employee for each personal copy and another $250 for each government copy, which means you might have to pay up to $500 per person if you're late, said Goble.

Read: How to Save Money If You Owe Taxes This Year

4. Deadlines for Healthcare Forms

There are three healthcare-related tax forms being issued this year. The 1095-A is for people who received coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace is required to provide that form by Feb. 1. Don't try to file your tax return without it. "You'll need information from it, including how many months your coverage was active and the cost," said Jim Torgerson, owner of Consolidated Tax Services.

Form 1095-B comes from health insurance providers and 1095-C comes from employers who offered coverage. The deadline for companies to provide these forms is March 31. They might help you, but aren't required for filing taxes, so you don't have to wait for them if you don't need them, Torgerson said.

5. Farming and Fishing Deadlines

Farmers and fishermen should take special note of these tax deadlines. If you work in these industries, you should have paid your estimated taxes for 2015 by Jan. 15. If so, you can wait until April 18 to file your 1040. If you didn't pay all your estimated taxes by Jan. 15, you were required to file your return and pay the outstanding balance by Feb. 29, or face a penalty.

Furthermore, if you filed and paid your taxes by March 1, you don't have to pay estimated tax for 2016, said Goble. However, if you expect to owe a lot for the 2016 tax year, you might want to go ahead and make estimated payments."You don't want to get to the filing deadline and owe money you don't have," said Goble.

6. Deadline for 2015 IRA Contributions

In 2015, an individual under age 50 could contribute $5,550 to an IRA, and people age 50 and over could contribute $6,500. If you didn't meet the contribution limit, you have until the final filing day for 2016 tax returns to make contributions for last year.

If you owe taxes, making those last-minute contributions can reduce your bill if you put the money into a traditional IRA. Roth IRA contributions aren't tax deductible.

However, you shouldn't make a habit of getting down to the wire before you make IRA contributions because you're missing opportunities, said Elle Kaplan, CEO of LexION Capital Management. "For those extra months you waited to contribute, your money could have been harnessing the power of tax-free growth instead of sitting in a savings account," she said.

7. Deadline to File an Extension

If you can't file your taxes on time, you can get an automatic six-month extension. However, you must file an application by your normal tax-filing deadline. Practically everyone qualifies for an extension, so you don't have to worry about getting denied, said Goble.

Keep in mind this is an extension for filing taxes, not an extension for paying taxes. That means you must estimate the amount you owe and send in the payment. If you don't, you'll be liable for penalties and interest.

8. Deadline for Amended Taxes

People make mistakes, such as forgetting to report income or forgetting to claim certain credits. Luckily, the IRS gives you up to three years to make corrections. If your 2013 tax return has errors, the deadline to file an amended return is the final filing day for 2016 tax returns.

Remember, you can file an amended return whether you owe taxes or the IRS owes you, said Torgerson. If you're due a refund, you'll get what you're owed plus interest.

9. Deadline for Taxpayers Abroad

If you're living outside of the U.S. or Puerto Rico on tax day, you're not subject to the same tax deadlines as everyone else. You might qualify for an automatic two-month extension. You don't need to file a special form, just attach a statement to your return stating whether you were living and doing business abroad, or were stationed abroad in the military.

The automatic two-month extension gives you additional time to file and to pay without facing penalties. However, you will be charged interest on taxes owed if you don't pay by the normal filing deadline.

If the two-month extension isn't enough, you can request an additional four-month extension using Form 4868, for a total of six months. Remember that this isn't an extension for paying taxes. If you don't pay by the end of your two-month extension, the interest will keep compiling and you might be charged a penalty unless you have reasonable cause.

10. Deadline for Foreign Bank Account Report

U.S. citizens, residents and businesses with one or more foreign accounts that were valued at $10,000 or more at any time last year must file a Foreign Bank Account Report. This form is designed to help to combat money laundering and terrorism, and it must be submitted to the U.S. Treasury, not the IRS. It can only be filed electronically and must be completed by June 30.

The FBAR is commonly overlooked, said Goble, but you shouldn't take it lightly. "Enforcement ramped up after 9/11. If you miss the deadline, you can face a civil penalty of up to $10,000. And if the government can show that your not filing is a willful violation, the penalty can be $100,000, or 50 percent of the account balance. That can ruin someone if they're not careful," he added.

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10 most important tax deadlines in 2016
To preserve the uniqueness of their island paradise, Hawaii since 2004 has had an "Exceptional Tree" tax allowance. Landowners can deduct up to $3,000 from their income for expenses such as pruning and fertilization for any tree designated as rare, big, old or a combination thereof. That's per tree. Top-bracket earners taxed at the state's highest rate (11 percent) would save $330 via the deduction. The work must be done by a certified arborist, and the deduction can be claimed only every third year. Hawaii has had a list of "Exceptional Trees" since 1975, and there are now estimated to be more than a thousand thus designated.
Maine legislators tax anyone who deals in their official state fruit-blueberries, at the rate of 1.5 cents per pound. The resulting revenues-more than $1.6 million to state coffers in the fiscal year that ended in June 2013-are used to promote the crop and agricultural research. 
The state also taxes harvesters and processors of hard-shell clams (known in the state as mahogany quahogs) at $1.25 a bushel, but state revenues for that are much lower. 
Alabama is the last in the union to tax a deck of cards as if it were a "vice," like alcohol and tobacco. Taxing decks of cards, associated with gambling, was once fairly common, but most states have since set up separate control boards to regulate liquor and tobacco, and have let the cards slide.
But in Alabama, you'll still pay a 10 cent sales tax on any pack of cards you purchase. Retailers also have to pay $2 to the state each year for the privilege of selling playing cards.
Virginia levies a 50-cent excise tax on every lamb or sheep sold in the state. Both the Maine and Virginia taxes are examples of checkoff programs that collect taxes from an industry to fund promotional campaigns for the products. National commodity checkoff programs, authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have brought you campaigns such as "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" and "Got Milk?" But the Virginia program is extremely modest by comparison, having collected only $9,000 in fiscal year 2013. The funds go to the Virginia Sheep Industry Board, which spends them largely on predator control.
In 2013, in part to meet federal pollution-control mandates, Maryland legislators enacted fees on property owners in Baltimore and nine other Maryland counties, aimed at curbing storm water runoff. The fees were meant to fund programs to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest marine estuary in the U.S. Sounds simple enough, but the way Maryland legislators wrote the law has led to an angry backlash in some corners against this so-called “rain tax.” One way localities calculate the tax is by measuring how much of a landowner’s tract is "impervious" to precipitation seeping into the ground. So the more you've developed it with buildings, driveways, tennis courts and the like, the less it will absorb and the more you pay. That's how the tax is being implemented (through aerial and satellite photos) in Montgomery County, a heavily developed suburb of Washington, and many landowners are up in arms. New Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, campaigned against this tax in his winning 2014 campaign and has introduced legislation to repeal it, though it’s not clear that will fly with Democratic state legislators. Money still needs to be raised to satisfy the federal pollution mandates, but the methods may change.
Kansas is among a bevy of jurisdictions that allows sale of lower-alcohol beer (the term of art is “cereal malt beverage”) in convenience and grocery stores. But Kansas also taxes “3.2” beer differently -- and there lies the rub. At a liquor store, all products, including, say, a conventional six-pack of Budweiser (with 5 percent alcohol by volume), are taxed at a special rate of 8 percent. At the convenience store down the street, however, ordinary sales tax is levied on the lower-alcohol, cereal malt beverage bottle of Bud. That often ends up being more than the 8 percent alcohol tax. In Pomona, Kansas, for example, the effective rate on the weaker beer would be 9.7 percent. Go figure.
When it comes to taxation, the rule is generally the stronger the booze, the higher the tax (that's why Kansas's beer tax scheme is an anomaly). California follows that curve, but at 100 proof, you better be ready to pay through the nose. Distilled spirits are taxed at $3.30 a gallon if below 100 proof, or 50 percent alcohol. Go over that, like with Bacardi 151, and the tax doubles to $6.60. Maryland also notes the 100 proof point, but it only adds 1.5 cents per proof, per gallon to the relatively modest liquor tax of $1.50 per gallon, taking the Bacardi 151 to $2.27 per gallon.
Entertainment venues pay a business tax to Nevada ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent on admissions fees (and food, drink and merchandise sales) whenever there’s live entertainment going on. There are exemptions, however, including this one, for businesses that provide "instrumental or vocal music, which may or may not be supplemented with commentary by the musicians, in a restaurant, lounge or similar area if such music does not routinely rise to the volume that interferes with casual conversation and if such music would not generally cause patrons to watch as well as listen." So your piano player can play “Feelings” softly and even crack a few jokes, tax-free, for your business. Just make sure they're not funny enough to attract attention.
Want to own a plush or fuel-thirsty ride? That’ll cost you extra in New Jersey. Cars that cost $45,000 or more or have a combined EPA fuel-mileage average of 19 or below pay an additional 0.4 percent on top of New Jersey’s 7 percent sales tax. 
In New Mexico, making it to 100 years has a payoff beyond the chance that Willard Scott will wish you a happy birthday: You don’t have to pay state income tax anymore. If you’ve been physically present in the state for at least six months and a resident of the state on the last day of the year, and you’re not someone’s dependent, you’re eligible. You’ll still need to file, and there are some complications if you’re married and your spouse doesn’t qualify.

Related: 10 Best Tax Havens in the World

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 10 Most Important Tax Deadlines In 2016

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