This is your last chance to file your 2016 tax returns — without paying a fat fine

Remember that tax extension you filed this past spring? Back when you thought you had lots of time before you had to really worry about doing the paperwork? Well, the “tax day of reckoning” is almost here and the deadline to file is Monday, Oct. 16.

The extension deadline applies to individual tax returns for 2016 and includes 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ forms. Remember, filing is different than paying. If you think you owed for 2016, you should have already sent your check, which covered your estimated taxes to the IRS, by April 18 even if you did not submit the paperwork. And although you already paid, you still have to complete and submit the appropriate tax form, which you can either access from the IRS website or through your tax software.

There are a few situations when you can get more time: People impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria areas have until Jan. 31 to file if they previously requested an extension.

Best signs from Trump tax return protest:

21 PHOTOS
Best signs from Trump tax return protests
See Gallery
Best signs from Trump tax return protests
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Demonstrators protest in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
UNITED STATES - APRIL 15: Buddhist monk Jampal Rowe of Poolesville, Md., attends the Tax March rally on the west lawn of the Capitol to call on President Trump to release his tax returns, April 15, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors walk by the Trump hotel during the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors gather in Center City Philadelphia, PA, ahead of the April 15 Tax Day March. Around the nation thousands are expected to participate in similar protests against the Trump-administration. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Protestor holds a sign during a Tax Day protest rally and march in Center City Philadelphia, on April 15, 2017. Around the nation thousands are expected to participate in similar protests against the Trump-administration. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

What if I don’t file (or pay)?

First, the good news: if the IRS owes you money — and most taxpayers get refunds — there is no penalty for filing late. (Although giving the IRS any more of your hard-earned cash than it deserves isn’t a great money move.)

If you did owe money, however, and forgot about the filing deadline until now, you’ll probably be alright as you have a week to complete your returns. But make no mistake if you simply don’t file, even if you already paid the estimated taxes, you’ll owe the IRS even more money, which accrues interest the longer you blow it off.

The “failure to file penalty is about 5% of the tax owed for each month, or part of a month that your return is late, up to a maximum of 25%. If your return is over 60 days late, there’s also a minimum penalty for late filing; it’s the lesser of $205 or 100% of the tax owed,” according to the IRS.

Most tax-friendly states in America:

11 PHOTOS
Most tax-friendly states in America
See Gallery
Most tax-friendly states in America

10. Delaware

(DenisTangneyJr via Getty Images)

9. Mississippi

(SeanPavonePhoto via Getty Images)

8. South Dakota.

(Getty Images)

7. Alabama

(RobHainer)

6. Louisiana

(Alamy)

5. Arizona

(Dreamframer via Getty Images)

4. Nevada

(ddub3429 via Getty Images)

3. Florida

(TraceRouda via Getty Images)

2. Alaska

(yenwen via Getty Images)

1. Wyoming

(Putt Sakdhnagool via Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

What happens if the deadline passes and you are still racing to get your taxes filed? “You can still file, but you have to do it by paper,” Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and tax expert for TurboTax said.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore or try to cheat Uncle Sam. Telling the IRS you “forgot” or “didn’t know” isn’t an excuse for not filing. Beyond having to pay penalties, if the IRS determines that you willfully filed fraudulent returns, you could wind up serving jail time, Business Insider reported.

How to file right now

Avoid any of the harrowing scenarios where you have to pull an all-nighter and dive in right now. If you are filing electronically, IRS e-file or free file is still available, or you can use tax software. You can still file your taxes free of charge using free file if your annual income is $64,000 or less.

Need help? The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax help to people earning $54,000 a year as well as those with a disability or if you need help with forms due to limited English.

The IRS also reminds Oct. 16 filers that they may need to take their adjusted gross income from their 2015 return to electronically file their 2016 return. To locate the AGI on your 2015 returns, look on line 37 of Form 1040; line 21 on Form 1040A or line 4 on Form 1040EZ. If you don’t have a physical copy, look for a copy in your tax software or ask your preparer for a copy.

Don’t forget to take deductions and credits. “One deduction people often miss is to deduct state or local income taxes on their federal return,” Lewis said. “Also, don’t forget about the charitable contributions, even the smaller ones you made during the year.”

You should also tick off easy ones like taking the deduction for a home office, contributions to your health savings account and claiming the earned income tax credit for those who made $14,880 or less in 2016. “The average earned income tax credit was close to $2,500 last year,” Lewis said.

Lastly, don’t forget to sign and date your returns or the IRS won’t accept them.

RELATED: 10 of the most ridiculous tax loopholes

11 PHOTOS
10 ridiculous tax loopholes
See Gallery
10 ridiculous tax loopholes

1. Alaskan Whaling Captain Deduction

Alaskan whaling captains can avoid tax on up to $10,000 of whaling-related expenses per year. Costs they can deduct include purchasing and maintaining the boat, weapons and gear, food and supplies for the crew, and storing and distributing the catch.

Oddly, whaling captains report these costs as a charitable deduction on their tax returns. Unless someone is authorized by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, however, whaling is illegal in the United States.

(marchello74 via Getty Images)

2. NASCAR Track Deduction

When a business pays for capital improvements — like building a new office or buying a new machine — it typically deducts those costs over the life of the asset, which could translate into decades. A special exception exists in the tax code for “certain motorsports entertainment complex property placed into service before Jan. 1, 2017,” which refers to NASCAR tracks and other racing facilities. The exception allows businesses to deduct the costs over seven years, which is much faster than usual.

(Onfokus via Getty Images)

3. Hawaii’s Exceptional Tree Deduction

If you take care of an “exceptional tree” in Hawaii, you can deduct up to $3,000 on your state taxes of what it costs you. A local county arborist advisory committee must declare it an exceptional tree and you’ll need an affidavit from the arborist stating the tree’s type and location and what you paid to maintain it. You can take this deduction only once every three years.

(agaliza via Getty Images)

4. Florida’s Rent-a-Cow Deduction

If you live in Florida and want to pay lower property taxes — perhaps on your second home that has a lot of open land — consider renting some cows. Under greenbelt laws, if you use your land for agricultural purposes, your real estate taxes are based on the agricultural value of the land, not its market value.

This deduction doesn’t explicitly state how many cows you have to raise or even that you have to own them. Developers often let a few dozen rented cows roam their land — sometimes even during construction — to lower their property tax bills.

5. New Mexico’s Centenarian Deduction

If you live to be 100 years old, moving to New Mexico will cut your tax bill because you will pay no tax to the state. A caveat: You cannot take the deduction if you claim someone as a dependent. Paying no state income tax might not be a huge break, but if it’s available, take it.

(gece33 via Getty Images)

6. Qualified Performing Artist Deduction

If you’re searching for a tax loophole you can use — one that doesn’t benefit only the 1 percent — the IRS allows qualified performing artists to deduct certain expenses. To qualify, you must have performed for at least two different employers during the year and received at least $200 from each, had business expenses that exceeded 10 percent of your performing arts income and claimed less than $16,000 in adjusted gross income for the year. If you’re married, that $16,000 limit applies to both your spouse’s and your incomes.

(DragonImages via Getty Images)

7. Home Landscaping Deduction

If you regularly see clients at your home office, you might be able to write off a portion of your landscaping costs. The IRS allows a deduction for the portion of your home costs that are related to your home office, so as long as you use your home office exclusively for business, you might be able to take this one. If keeping your lawn looking good for your clients is part of the job, you’re in luck.

(Elenathewise via Getty Images)

8. Personal Pool Deduction

Install a pool for medical treatments and you could be in for a big tax break. One taxpayer suffering from emphysema and bronchitis was prescribed swimming by his doctor as part of his treatment, so he built a pool and wrote off a portion of the costs as a medical expense. He could deduct only the amount by which the installation cost exceeded the home’s increase in value, but he did get to include upkeep costs.

See: 19 Medical Expenses You Can Deduct From Your taxes

(ivanastar via Getty Images)

9. Body Oil Deduction

Deducting body oil on your taxes might sound downright crazy, but you might be able to. One professional bodybuilder needed to shine a little brighter during competition so he applied body oil. When tax season rolled around, he included the cost as a business expense. At first, the IRS disallowed the deduction, but the Tax Court approved because using the oil made him more competitive.

(bekisha via Getty Images)

10. Charity Meat Deduction

Meat packers, butchers and processing plants in South Carolina can earn a $75 state tax credit for each deer carcass they process and donate. You must be licensed with the state or the U.S. Department of Agriculture and you must have a contract with a qualified nonprofit that distributes food to the needy. If you use any of the deer for commercial purposes, you will not qualify for the donation.

Up NextTax Deductions 2017 — 50 Tax Write-Offs You Don’t Know About

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

 

Read Full Story

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.