IRS offers tips on late filing, scams

Staff reports

NEW ORLEANS - You meant to do your taxes, but the next thing you knew the April 15th tax deadline passed. 

According to the Internal Revenue Service, you can still file your tax return, even if you didn’t ask for an extension and in some cases you won’t even face a penalty.  The IRS also offers tips on recordkeeping and how to protect against tax related scams.

What if I have not yet filed?

Electronic filing is available until Oct. 15 for extension and late filers.  IRS e-file is the most efficient way to prepare your taxes, particularly taking into consideration the latest tax changes including the Recovery Rebate Credit, First-Time Homebuyers Tax Credit, Additional Standard Deduction for Real Estate Taxes and the Educators Expense Deduction.  E-filing will ensure you do not miss out on any tax breaks.  Also, taxpayers who earn $56,000 or less can file for free and online at the Web site using the traditional Free File Program.  For those who are comfortable in preparing their own return, Free File Fillable Forms gives you a free e-file option, regardless of income.

For the traditional paper filer, tax forms and instructions are available at the Web site.

“If you overpaid your tax by April 15th and will get a refund when you file, there’s no late-filing penalty,” said IRS Spokesperson Dee Harris. “The penalty is based on the amount not paid by April 15th. Choosing e-file with direct deposit can get your refund to you in as little as 10 to 14 days.”

If you have not yet filed your tax return and you owe, file immediately to minimize the late filing penalty based on the unpaid balance.  The late filing penalty is 5 percent per month up to five months that a return is outstanding.  File your return and pay as much as you can. The IRS will send you a notice for the balance due and will charge interest and penalties only on the unpaid balance. You can also request a payment plan prior to receiving the IRS notice.

You can ask to make monthly installment payments.  You can apply for an IRS installment agreement using the IRS Web-based Online Payment Agreement application on This Web-based application allows eligible taxpayers or their authorized representatives to self-qualify, apply for, and receive immediate notification of approval. You can also request an installment agreement by submitting a completed Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, either when you file the return or when you later get a notice from the IRS.

“Missing the tax deadline isn’t the end of the world. But doing something now will be the end of your worrying about it.” Harris said.

What Records Should I Keep?

You must keep records so that you use to prepare a complete and accurate income tax return. The law does not require any special form of records. However, you should keep all receipts, canceled checks or other proof of payment, and any other records to support any deductions or credits you claim.

Normally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents — such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRA and business or rental property — should be kept longer.

You should keep copies of tax returns you have filed and the tax forms package as part of your records. They may be helpful in amending filed returns or preparing future ones.

For more information on recordkeeping, see IRS Publication 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals.

How do I Recognize and Avoid Tax Scams?

Even after tax season, there are numerous scams in which people receive unsolicited e-mails, phone calls or faxes that claim to come from the IRS, and which request personal and financial information that may be used to commit identity theft. Typically, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes.

Anyone who receives one of these bogus e-mails, phone calls or faxes should avoid responding, clicking on any links or opening attachments. Recipients may forward the e-mails or report the calls to the IRS using the e-mail address