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Originally published Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 8:00 PM

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Tax deadline is here: Don’t panic, just do it

Here are some last-minute tips to help you file on time and to save yourself headaches and money down the road.

The Sacramento Bee

Last-minute help with taxes

• Internal Revenue Service: Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or go online to: The IRS has dozens of videos on YouTube and a free mobile app — IRS2Go — for iPhone and Android phones.

• VITA/TCE sites: Get free help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. Search by ZIP code to find sites, including those with bilingual help in Russian, Cantonese, Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages.

• Running late? See Form 4868 for an automatic six-month extension until Oct. 15. This form does not give you more time to pay taxes. If you are due a refund, you don’t need to file Form 4868 and you have up to three years to file.


OK, procrastinators, here’s a friendly reminder: Time is running out. Tuesday is the deadline for filing your tax returns (if you owe money).

The good news: With very few tax changes for 2013, there aren’t any big head-scratchers to sort out this year. That’s a big change from a year ago, when the tax-filing season was delayed by a flurry of last-minute tax-law changes enacted by Congress.

Here are some last-minute items worth noting:

File — if you owe

“A lot of people panic this time of year,” said California Franchise Tax Board spokeswoman Denise Azimi, either because they can’t pay what they think they owe or don’t have all their paperwork together.

If that’s you, don’t avoid the April 15 deadline. You’re better off filing the return on time and paying what you can, then waiting 30 days for a billing notice with the exact amount of tax due. “You can then get on a payment plan and pay it off over time,” Azimi said.

If you don’t file and you owe money, you could be subject to penalties and interest, which can only add to your tax burden. Monthly installment plans, with a one-time startup fee, are offered by the Internal Revenue Service.

Avoid easy errors

One of the biggest mistakes, especially for those filing a paper return, is basic math. Double-check everything before you file.

If you’re filing an electronic form — and more than 80 percent of taxpayers now e-file their returns — the math computations will be done for you.

Look for credits

When filing, be sure to look for federal tax credits, such as home energy-efficiency improvements, college costs, child-care expenses and charitable donations. One of the commonly overlooked credits is the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, known as the EITC. Designed to help low-income working adults, it’s a refundable credit, so even if you don’t owe taxes, you could still get money back in your pocket.

Search the “EITC Assistant” tool on the IRS.govwebsite to see if you qualify.

What about refunds

Lots of taxpayers relish getting that refund.

But personal-finance advisers say that’s not necessarily a good thing.

“By adjusting your withholding, you can give yourself an automatic raise and use the money to pay off debt or increase your retirement savings,” said Sandra Block, senior associate editor with Kiplinger personal-finance magazine.

She recommends adjusting your W-4 form, so you’ll immediately get more take-home pay that can be allotted to savings or debts.

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