Filing taxes late? Tips for tax procrastinators

Haven't filed your taxes yet? Despite the fact that procrastinating gets a bad rap, there's nothing wrong with waiting until the last minute to file your taxes -- so long as you get them in on time. In fact, according to a TurboTax survey, 40% of all tax returns in 2009 were filed before the end of February. That means the vast majority of taxpayers file in March and April. If you've waited this long, you're hardly in bad company.

There are a number of reasons why taxpayers may file closer to the deadline. Here are five "tax procrastinator" profiles:

1. The Taxpayer Who Owes. Most late filers probably fall into this category. Research shows that taxpayers who file early tend to get larger refunds. Those who wait a little longer likely owe the government some money. And since Uncle Sam doesn't give you any bonus points (or interest on your cash) for filing early, why pay sooner than you have to?

But just because you don't want to pay until the last minute doesn't mean that you can't get organized earlier. Have your return ready to go ahead of time to avoid last-minute filing stress. You don't even have to file and pay together: the IRS does not mind if you file early and pay a little later so long as that payment is in the mail by April 15.

2. The Taxpayer Who Just Can't Get Organized. When I used to prepare returns, taxpayers would bring me their information in all kinds of ways, including giant suitcases stuffed with receipts. While those taxpayers were generally sheepish (and often apologetic), I was quick to point out to them that they were still ahead, because at least they had their documents. That's a good starting point. Fear of not having the right records tends to put off some taxpayers -- but don't let it stop you. Spend a day or so sorting through your records and deciding what to keep and what to toss. If you need a quick reference for what to have handy for this tax year, you can refer to this tax checklist.


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