Last-minute tax filing tips from IRS

Tax Day is fast approaching. And while millions have filed their taxes already, millions more are still preparing their returns in anticipation of the April 15 deadline.

This year, the number of people who had filed by March 31 was up 2 percent compared to last year, but Mark Green, spokesman for the IRS, says some Georgians are still procrastinating. Green estimates the IRS will see 200,000 to 300,000 returns for the state coming in on April 15.

“No matter what, by April 15, file something,” Green says. “The penalty for failure to file anything can be up to 25 percent.”

If you are one of the holdouts, Green offers a few handy tips to get it done.

File electronically: E-filing offers quite a few benefits, including faster refunds, more accurate returns and 48-hour confirmation from the IRS that your return has been accepted. Anyone with an adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less can use the IRS Free File program, which provides free tax return preparation and e-filing through a partnership with software companies. To use Free File, visit, click on Free File and select one of the 14 software companies. It is important to access all Free File software companies through the IRS website, Green adds.

Don't forget the past: According to Green, about 23,000 Georgians who haven't filed a tax return for 2010 are missing out on more than $28 million in unclaimed refunds. If you are one of those people, you must file 2010 taxes by April 15, 2014. Refunds from 2010 will not be paid after this year. "You have three years to put in a claim. If you don't put in the claim, the money goes back to the U.S. Treasury," Green says.

Ask for more time: If you need more time, you can request up to a six-month extension to file your return by visiting the Free File link on Anyone, at any income level, can use the free service to electronically request an automatic tax-filing extension on Form 4868. You can also download the form and mail it to the IRS or you can request an extension through your tax preparer or tax preparation software. This is not an extension for payment, only for filing your return.

If you can't pay, don't panic: If you owe money, but are unable to pay the full amount, you may qualify for a payment agreement with the IRS. Green says the IRS will work with each individual's circumstances to come up with an appropriate plan. If you owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest, you can use the online payment agreement at to set up a monthly payment to be paid over a maximum of six years. You can also request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465-FS and mailing it. Download the form on the IRS website.

Get free help: The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs continue to offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify. The VITA program generally offers free tax help to people who make $52,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their tax returns. The TCE program offers free tax help for everyone, with special attention to those who are 60 or older. To find a site, use the VITA Locator Tool at or call 1-800-906-9887.

Be accurate: Don't let inaccuracies hold you up. Small mistakes can be a red flag. For example, says Green, many people forget to sign their paper returns. And if you are sending a payment, the check should be payable to the "United States Treasury" and mailed along with Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, if used. The check should include your Social Security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and the type of form filed.