Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.



5 Last-Minute Tax Tips You Shouldn't Forget

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

With just 10 days to go before your tax returns are due, procrastinating taxpayers are truly coming down to the last minute. But just because you're late to the game doesn't mean you should pay even a penny more in tax than you absolutely need to.

As a guide for late filers everywhere, here are five absolute last-minute things to keep in mind as you scurry to meet the April 15 deadline.

1. Attach only what you need to attach to your return.
Usually, the only forms you'll attach with your return are W-2s from your work, and other forms that include amounts of tax that were withheld. Most other supporting documentation shouldn't be attached, although you should make sure you retain them in your own records in case you're audited.

2. Should you itemize or take the standard deduction?
Once you've calculated your total income, most taxpayers are allowed to take either a standard deduction, or to itemize specific deductible items. What's important to remember is that you have a choice between those two options, and you can pick whichever one will save you the most. Making the wrong choice can cost you.

Most taxpayers who make this mistake take the standard deduction rather than itemizing, figuring that the standard deduction requires less work and has less audit risk. But if you've paid mortgage interest, made charitable donations, incurred real estate or state income taxes, or suffered casualty losses or extensive medical expenses during the year, knowing what you'd be entitled to if you itemized is crucial to saving as much as you can.

3. For paper returns, use certified mail to prove when you sent them.
If you wait until the last minute to file, being able to show that you filed on time can be important later on if something happens to your return in the mail. When you use certified mail, you'll get a receipt with your postmark date on it, and the IRS treats that as proof of your filing as of that date -- even if the IRS doesn't receive the return until days later. Registered mail also works for the IRS, but it's much more expensive. Of course, filing electronically avoids any chance of a paper return getting lost in the mail.

4. Think about 2013 estimated taxes, as well.
If you found that you didn't have enough tax withheld from your paycheck last year to cover your tax bill, you may need to pay estimated taxes in 2013 to avoid penalties. If so, the first quarterly installment is due on the same date as your 2012 return -- April 15. Use Form 1040-ES to calculate and pay your taxes.

5. Don't forget that IRA!
If you're still hunting for deductions, the easiest way to cut your tax bill is to open a traditional IRA. If you qualify, you can deduct up to $5,000 from your 2012 taxes -- $6,000 if you're 50 or older. But don't wait until the absolute last minute to open an account, as it will take time to get an account set up. Learn more about the benefits of IRAs here.

If you want to be a successful investor, the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report, "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich," names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2349367, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/22/2016 5:30:24 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 8 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,145.71 -16.64 -0.09%
S&P 500 2,141.16 -0.18 -0.01%
NASD 5,257.40 15.57 0.30%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes