10/12/2012 12:43 pm ET Updated Dec 12, 2012

October 15, Final Tax Deadline Is Drawing Near

Since 1955, Tax Day in the U.S. has typically fallen on April 15. However, about 20 million Americans delay that filing responsibility until sometime later, either through filing an extension using Form 4868 or by being out of the country. No matter how these taxpayers may have delayed, the final deadline for filing their annual tax return, October 15, is coming up fast.

What should taxpayers know about the October 15 extension deadline? It's important to remember that an extension filed by April 15, or the 17 in 2012, was an extension to file the forms only, and will suspend the late filing penalty. However, taxes were due by April 17 in order to avoid the late payment penalty for not paying timely.

The October 15 deadline is the final deadline to file a 2012 tax return and avoid any late filing penalty and to pay any remaining balance due. Some lucky taxpayers may even get a refund. Here are a few reminders and best practices to make the final filing deadline a painless and beneficial one:

First, what works during the regular tax deadline also works during the final extension deadline. Namely, start as early as you can, be organized with your tax documents and manage your time carefully. Waiting until the very last-minute and rushing through the tax preparation process can lead to mistakes and worse -- overlooked and omitted tax deductions and credits. Remember, no one will be reviewing your return for missed deductions and credits during IRS processing, so if you leave them off, they will stay off.

Second, do not hesitate to seek out and engage professional tax help if you feel you need it, because most likely, it will help. That may sound like a plug for the tax business but it really is good practical advice here in the final hours. Get some help and reduce the risk of error or omitted tax benefits.

Finally, take some time to review the past year for life changes. Events such as getting married or having a child are not the only occasions with tax return implications; other events such as starting your own small business, going back to school, or even being unemployed for a time all have possible beneficial implications to a tax return, and consequently can increase your tax refund or reduce any taxes due.

In summary, as time starts to run out and the final tax return deadline draws near, be sure to make the most of the tax event by staying focused on the real outcome -- namely getting all of the tax deductions and credits you are due so that you will owe the smallest tax possible, or best of all, get the largest refund you deserve.