It's not unusual to procrastinate on the tax-filing front. But if you've yet to start tackling your return, now's truly the time to get serious. With less than a week until the April 15 filing deadline, you can't afford to put off your taxes any longer.
In fact, if you've yet to even begin the process of filing your taxes, you may be wondering if you should even bother trying to go through the motions this week or just get a tax extension instead. The latter option will buy you an extra six months to submit your return to the IRS so that if you end up owing money for 2018, you won't face a costly failure-to-file penalty. You will, however, begin to accrue interest and penalties on any unpaid tax debt you have once April 15 passes, which means that filing an extension won't let you off the hook as far as those things are concerned.
In other words, if you're behind on your taxes, an extension may not be a complete solution to your problem. On the other hand, you don't want to rush through the filing process and make an error that hurts you along the way.
So should you attempt to file your taxes within the week? If you can answer "yes" to these three questions, it pays to give it a shot.
1. Am I taking the standard deduction?
Claiming the standard deduction on your tax return is less cumbersome than itemizing. With the standard deduction, you can claim $12,000 as a single tax filer or $24,000 as a married couple filing jointly. You don't need to tally up your charitable contributions, figure out how much mortgage interest you paid, or deal with any of the other details filers who itemize contend with. In other words, the standard deduction is easy, especially when you're pressed for time.
2. Do I have all of my tax forms ready?
If you're missing tax forms, like W-2s or 1099s, then you'll need to acquire that information before submitting your taxes. But if you're all set with those various forms, then you can certainly file your taxes by the deadline even though there's not a lot of time yet. Just be sure to look at those documents carefully and confirm that the information they contain makes sense. If you find that you need a form corrected, you may need to delay your tax filing until that's sorted out.
That said, an incorrect 1099 doesn't necessarily need to delay your filing. If you don't have time to sort out the error but have proof that you're in the right, you can file it along with your return and explain the situation to the IRS. Don't just ignore that discrepancy, though -- the IRS gets copies of 1099s, and if the information you submit on your tax return doesn't match what it sees on those forms, your return could get audited.
3. Am I filing my taxes solo?
At this stage of the game, it may be too late to hire someone to do your taxes for you, especially if your return is complex. But if you're filing on your own, there's no reason you can't carve out an evening or weekend to get the job done. That said, if you're filing solo, be sure to do so electronically. Today's software is designed to help you navigate the process and avoid errors that could otherwise cause you to lose money or land you on the IRS audit list.
If you truly don't feel equipped to get your taxes done by the April 15 deadline, then you're generally better off asking for an extension than risking a major error. But if you can answer "yes" to the questions above, it means you might as well push yourself to get your taxes in on time. If anything, it'll give you the peace of mind that comes with getting a less-than-enjoyable task off your plate.