Several years ago I was a participant in a bizarre conversation in which a friend asked me if I had picked up my new license plate yet (this must have been the year the "Amber Waves of Grain" plates were unleashed), and I replied that my plates weren't due for renewal until March. My friend asked when I expected to get my plate, and I continued to insist that I didn't need to get my plate until March. Finally, after repeating this dialog several times, it dawned on me that it was already April, I should have picked up my license plate a month earlier, and somehow in my mind the juxtaposition of March and April had been reversed.
If this sort of time-distortion happens to you, you may find yourself wondering why all your friends are in such a hurry to file their income tax returns when, after all, it's only April, and the returns aren't due until April 15. With luck you'll come to your senses within the next week and a half, so you won't find yourself saying, "But my return isn't due until April 15" on the 12th of May.
For those of you who are just now realizing that your tax return due date is fast approaching, here are some tips for last minute help with preparation.
Before you do anything else, get out last year's tax return and review it to see what kinds of income you reported and what kinds of deductions you used to reduce that income. For most of us, our tax situation doesn't change much from year to year. Use last year's return as a guide, and gather up all the receipts and forms you will need to prepare this year's tax return.
Get the tax forms, read the instructions. IRS forms and instructions are intimidating, but not impossible to understand (okay, there's some debate about this). You can find tax forms at the post office, the library, IRS offices (look in the phone book for locations), or you can download tax forms from the IRS's very own web site on the Internet: http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/prod/cover.html. Indiana tax forms can be downloaded from http://www.ai.org/dor/ . If you have a friend who is an accountant, ask that he or she bring home some forms for you. Understand that your accountant-friend is busy (what an understatement), so bring along a plate of freshly-baked cookies to trade.
Visit the IRS (in Indianapolis at 575 N. Pennsylvania Street, Room 268) and beg for help. Be prepared to wait in line. The IRS in Indianapolis will be open this Saturday, April 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is offering free tax return preparation to Earned Income Tax eligible filers, elderly, disabled, and low-income taxpayers.
Check the newspaper during the next week. Many non-profit groups, including universities and civic organizations, provide tax preparation assistance at no charge. You're not going to get a guarantee about the quality of the service, but then, you get what you pay for.
And speaking of paying for tax preparation, professional tax preparers, already burning the midnight oil for their regular clients, are not averse to taking on new customers, even this late in the game. This is the bread-and-butter time for tax preparers and they hate to turn away business, even if it means a few more sleepless nights.
Take a trip to the library or the bookstore. There are several books on the market that can help answer basic questions about tax preparation, and they are all prominently displayed this time of year.
Purchase tax preparation software for your computer. The tax programs are excellent tools for preparing your own tax return. Note that you will need to buy a separate program if you want to prepare your state return on the computer.
1-800-829-1040 is the phone number of the IRS. They take questions from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Consider extending the due date of your return. File form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and you can catch your breath for another four months before your tax return is due on August 15. You can attach Federal form 4868 to your Indiana return for an automatic extension until September 14. Extending your tax returns doesn. t let you off the hook for estimating how much tax you will owe and paying the amount due by April 15.
And as long as you. re wrapping up your tax return in time for the April 15 deadline, you might as well renew your auto license plate. After all, March is right around the corner&
copyright © 2000 Gail Perry - Fun with Taxes