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April 15 of each year is the due date for filing your federal individual income tax return for the prior calendar year. Your return is considered filed timely if the envelope is properly addressed and postmarked no later than the due date. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day. This year, since April 15 falls on a Sunday, and the next day is a holiday in Washington, D.C., federal income tax returns are due on April 17, 2012. Back To Top
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You’ll want to have the following info handy:

  • Driver’s License or other ID
  • Social Security number
  • Social Security number, birthdays and full names of any dependents
  • Your prior year federal and state income tax returns
  • Copies of forms 1040-V, 1040-ES or other documentation for estimated taxes paid
  • Proof of payment of foreign, state or local taxes paid
  • Forms W-2 or forms 1099-MISC
  • Schedules K-1 and forms 1099 (INT, DIV, G, SSA, B, R, etc.)
  • Forms 1098 (for mortgage, tuition and student loans)
  • Form W-2G for lottery or gambling winnings together with a list of lottery or gambling losses
  • Documentation of alimony paid or received
  • Documentation of charitable gifts (cash and non-cash)
  • Child care provider name, address and tax ID number
  • Receipts or list of expenses (medical, job and unreimbursed business)
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Both forms are used to report wages or funds paid by an employer to the IRS. However, a federal form W-2 is used by an employer to report wages, tips and other compensation paid to an employee, as well as taxes withheld on the employee’s behalf. The federal form 1099-MISC is used generally to report payments to the IRS made in the course of a trade or business to a person who is not an employee or to an unincorporated business (including partnerships). You’ll typically see withholding on a form W-2 with no withholding on the form 1099-MISC. Back To Top
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You must bring your form W-2 to your tax preparer; the IRS prohibits a preparer from filing a return using alternate wage information from, say, a paycheck. However, your forms will not generally be submitted to the IRS. You should retain your original forms together with copies of your return. Back To Top
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Taxes are due on the due date (April 17 for 2012) no matter when the return is filed. If you file early and you owe, there’s no penalty for waiting until the last minute to pay. You can pay the IRS by check, credit or debit card or electronic funds transfer. The IRS does not charge a fee for its services but convenience fees may be charged by service providers. Back To Top
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You don’t have to do anything to qualify for an extension. If you can’t file your tax return by the due date, you can request an automatic extension of time to file by filing a federal form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return by the regular due date for your federal income taxes. The automatic extension is for six months; if you need more time, you’ll have to apply separately. Remember, however, that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay so you may need to make a payment with your extension in order to avoid penalty and interest. Back To Top
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You have to make estimated tax payments for the current tax year if you expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax for the current tax year after subtracting your withholding and credits and you expect your withholding and credits to be less than the smaller of 90% of the tax to be shown on your current year’s tax return, or 100% of the tax shown on your prior year’s tax return. A good rule of thumb is to divide the total tax shown by four and make equal payments on April 15; June 15; September 15 and January 15 of the following year. Back To Top
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You’ll need to keep your tax returns and supporting documentations until the statute of limitations runs for filing returns or filing for refund; that’s typically three years from the due date of the return or the date that you file, whichever is later. There are a couple of quick caveats: If you claim depreciation, amortization, or depletion deductions, keep those records for as long as you own the underlying property. If you claim special deductions and credits, you may need to keep your records a little longer than normal (for example, if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction, you should keep those records for 7 years). If you have employees, including household employees, keep your employment tax records for at least 4 years after the date that payroll taxes become due or is paid, whichever is later. Back To Top
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If you e-file and opt for direct deposit, you can typically expect to receive your refund in about 10 business days; with direct deposit, you can even split your refund between one or more checking or savings accounts. If you opt for a traditional refund check by mail, expect those to typically be issued about three weeks after your return has been received by the IRS. You can check with the IRS by phone or online if you have questions about the status of your refund. Back To Top
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Whether you need to do anything if you discover you’ve made an error depends on what kind of mistake you’ve made. If it’s a simple math error, chances are that the IRS will catch it and fix it for you. If you left something out (for example, a schedule that you didn’t attach), you’ll likely get a letter from the IRS asking you for more information. But if the mistake is a big one - you didn’t report all of your income, for example, you’ll want to file an amended return. You file an amended return using a federal form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, after you’ve already filed your federal form 1040 (or 1040-EZ). Pay attention to dates: timing matters when it comes to amended returns. Generally, if you are hoping for a refund, you’ll need to file within 3 years (including extensions) after the date you filed the original return or within 2 years after the date you paid the original tax, whichever is later. Back To Top
Tax Girl
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