THE BLOG
04/12/2013 06:31 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

The Final Countdown: 3 Last Minute Tax Tips

April 15th is this Monday. Yes, this coming Monday! Most people have long since finished filling out their tax returns, and some have even gotten their federal and state refunds already. However, there are also plenty of people running down the clock, hurriedly adding receipts and hoping that their last-minute calculations won't make a mess of their forms. There isn't a thing I can say that will make the next three days any less stressful if you skipped out on filing early through the first three months of the year and waited until the last minute to file -- however, I can give you some advice that will help you avoid speeding to the post office on Monday.

Choose to E-File

There are no lines on the Internet! E-filing is definitely a blessing to the serial procrastinator. Not only does online preparation ensure that there is no mad dash to the post office on Monday evening, but many online preparation services walk you through your tax forms step-by-step, making the entire process much simpler than it used to be. Even if you aren't able to track down proof for every deduction you thought you'd be able to claim, at least you can rest assured that a reasonably comprehensive return was filed. And since it's all electronic, you have until midnight EST to send everything in, which gives you a bit of breathing room. Just make sure to use what time you do have wisely. Hopefully, you have some sort of filing system in place for your paperwork. If you don't, you will need to make every minute count.

Don't Wallow in Receipts

Along with allowing you to e-file and avoid those long post-office lines, the Internet is rife with articles offering up tax advice. You're even reading one right now! Look around and see if you can find a recent article that covers commonly missed deductions. While the quickly approaching deadline might mean a less-than-ideal return, looking over a list of commonly missed deductions can help make up for the fact you simply do not have the time to go through shoebox after shoebox of yellowing receipts, looking for every possible applicable expense. If you do feel like you need a bit more time, you could always ask the IRS to push the due date forward to October 15th which leads me to my next point.

Ask for an Extension

This isn't the most ideal situation, but if you are pounding back cups of coffee trying to stay awake in order to get everything to add up, it may not be a bad idea to look into filing for an extension. Go to the IRS website, download Form 4868, and fill it out. Technically, you still have to pay any taxes you owe by the 15th, even if you do file for an extension. Hopefully the work that you have put in thus far will give a rough idea of what you owe and you can send a check with your extension form -- as long as you pay at least 90 percent of your tax liability by April 15th, you will not have to pay any penalties. However, if you have absolutely no idea what you will wind up owing, the failure to pay penalty is only .5 percent of what you do owe for every month you do not pay. Compare that to the 5 percent fee you get slapped with if you fail to file on time, and you can see why asking for an extension may not be a bad idea.

All is not lost if you made the mistake of waiting until the very, very last minute to finish your tax returns. Using the e-filing resources available online to your advantage can help you manage the few remaining hours left, but if there is no way you can see yourself getting everything together by this coming Monday, at least you can ask for a bit more time. Either way, your weekend is going to be pretty busy -- do what you can, check your work carefully, and maybe plan a nice day off for Tuesday.