CPA offers tax tips for late filers

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, April 13, 2014

JANESVILLE—Tuesday is the 2013 federal income tax filing deadline.

If you're not going to meet it, Jim Bartlett, a certified public accountant who owns three Liberty Tax Service franchises--two in Janesville and one in Beloit--offered these last-minute tips:

1. File an extension. To do this, visit the Internal Revenue Services website at www.irs.gov and print out Form 4868, which is an application for an automatic extension of time to file a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It requires you to fill in your name, address and Social Security number. Then mail it--by April 15--to the IRS via certified mail, which allows the sender proof of mailing along with in-transit tracking and delivery confirmation information.

“This gives you a six-month extension to file your taxes,” Bartlett said.

2. Avoid late payment. When you file your tax return late, you are still subject to the late payment penalty. The only way to avoid this is by sending the IRS the money. So figure out how much money you will owe--by estimating an amount from previous tax returns--and send  it to the IRS and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Both the federal and state mailing addresses can be found at the top of Form 4868.

“If you assume you're going to owe money, making a payment will slow down or reduce the late penalty,” Bartlett said.

3. Take the necessary steps to file your tax extension. This must be done by Oct. 15.

“Otherwise, penalties will start again,” Bartlett said.

 The best way to do this is to go to a tax preparer who can answer your questions or use a tax software program. Both can file returns electronically.

“We recommend eSmart. But TurboTax and TaxACT are reasonably reliable and easy to use, too” he said.

4. Stay calm. Gather all the information--personal information for each family member, income and tax information, deductions and tax credits--before you can file.

“That's why the extension is out there--to give you the time if you don't have this information,” Bartlett said.

5. Use a reliable tax preparer. A certified public accountant is licensed to practice and an enrolled agent has the same rights and privileges with the IRS as a CPA after having passed a three-part IRS test.

“Check the education and training of the tax preparer you go to. Go to people who have some credibility, have been around and are going to be around. You want to know they have had training (to prepare you tax return),” he said.

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