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Tips for last-minute tax filers

The deadline to file your 2017 tax return is April 17, 2018. (FILE)

The clock is ticking to get your tax return filed on time. The deadline is April 17th at midnight.

If you haven’t filed yet, you’re not alone. The IRS expects to receive about 17 million tax returns this week.

“The first thing you need to do is take a big, deep breath because you’re probably really stressed,” said Mark Rose with Retirement Solutions. “Then you have to get to work.”

Experts say your best bet at this point is to file electronically. There’s a number of different software programs available, or you can use FreeFile on IRS.gov if your income is below $66,000. You can also mail your return in. As long as it’s postmarked by April 17th, the IRS considers it filed on time.

Before you file, it’s a good idea to put more money into your retirement accounts.

“Even though it’s now 2018, you can still make your contribution for the last year now,” said Rose. “If you can do that, it will lower your taxable income.”

Make sure to double check your work, as well. Last-minute filers often make simple mistakes, like math errors, writing incorrect social security numbers, or forgetting to sign.

“Sometimes you’re going through it so quickly, you miss some things,” Rose said. “Have someone else take a look at it for you.”

If you can’t get all your paperwork together by the deadline, file for an extension. Keep in mind though that you still have to pay what you owe by April 17th or you could get hit with a penalty.

“So estimate what you need to pay, try to pay that, and then you have another six months to be able to pull the paperwork together to file the paperwork,” advised Rose.

Rose also recommends using this year’s tax season to plan for next year:

  • Make sure you are withholding the right amount out of your paycheck.
  • A lot of people are withholding too much and getting a big refund each year. But that’s your money the government is holding interest free year-round.
  • If you withhold too little, you’ll owe at tax time.
  • Ideally, you want to have just enough withheld so that the amount will come as close as possible to your actual tax liability for the year.
  • You can make changes at any time by filling out a W-4 with your employer.
  • The IRS released a calculator to help you determine your withholding. You can find it here.
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