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Tips for filing taxes at the last minute

April 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The deadline for filing taxes would typically be this Friday.

But this year, the IRS moved the due date from April 15 to Monday, April 18, because of Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in Washington. Because the holiday lands on Saturday, it will be celebrated Friday instead.

If you owe money to the IRS, there's one big deduction you can still make up until April 18. Open up an IRA through a bank, stock broker or with a mutual fund company.

You can invest in a tax-deductible IRA if you're not covered by a retirement plan at work.

You're allowed to contribute up to $5,000 or $6,000 if you were 50 or older by Dec. 31 of last year.

If your income is less than $58,000, filing your taxes at the last minute is easy, and best of all, you can do it for free.

The IRS has teamed up with several companies like H&R Block that allow you to go online and file your taxes for free, 24 hours a day.

If you expect a tax refund, filing electronically is the best option. Because the IRS processes electronic returns faster than paper ones, you can expect to get your refund three to six weeks earlier.

There are several common tax mistakes made by taxpayers, including deducting mortgage loan points incorrectly.

Points are deductible upfront only for a first mortgage. So, if you refinanced last year to take advantage of the low rates, any points you paid can only be deducted over the life of the loan.

Banks are not required to send you a 1099 form for amounts less than $10. But that interest you earned on a savings or checking account is still taxable income and the IRS could catch the discrepancy.

If you make an error, even a small mistake on your taxes, your refund may be delayed.

"We remind people at this time of the year to be very careful with anything as basic as the right Social Security number or making sure you write it correctly," said Anabel Marquez of the IRS. "Basic math and subtraction, calculations, all that stuff really matters, especially if you wait until the last minute."

As a last resort, if you can't file your returns by Monday, you can file for an extension by downloading form 4868 from the IRS website.

Mail the form in by Monday at the latest, or you can e-file the extension to delay your tax filing deadline until Oct. 17.

What you can't delay is your tax payment. You must pay your estimated taxes along with your extension request by Monday.

"We do remind people that if they owe money on their taxes that they pay that money by the 18th because the failure to file penalty and interest charge is much higher than failure to pay," Marquez said.

If you do file at the last minute, make sure you check over your return carefully. Also, don't forget to sign your return. Many people, especially those in a rush, forget about signing and dating their returns and that could delay processing your taxes.

Useful links:

Internal Revenue Service free file online: http://www.irs.gov/efile/index.html

Internal Revenue Service: http://www.irs.gov

IRS List of Charitable Organizations: http://www.irs.gov/app/pub-78

IRS Charitable Contribution Tips: http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc506.html

CalCPA Education Foundation: http://www.calcpa.org

TurboTax Tips: http://turbotax.intuit.com

Kiplinger - Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions: http://www.kiplinger.com

Yahoo Finance: http://finance.yahoo.com/taxes

Bankrate Tax Center: http://www.bankrate.com/taxes.aspx

SmartMoney Tax Blog: http://blogs.smartmoney.com/tax

MSN Tax Advice: http://money.msn.com/taxes

Post offices in Southern California that will be staying open late on tax day, April 18:

Airport Station
9029 Airport Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90009
Mail collection: midnight
Retail service: midnight

Industry P&DC
15421 E. Gale Ave.
City of Industry CA 91715
Mail collection: midnight
Retail service: 6 p.m.

Long Beach P&DC
2300 Redondo Ave.
Long Beach CA 90809
Mail collection: midnight
Retail service: 7 p.m.

Los Angeles Post Office
7001 S. Central Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90001
Mail collection: midnight
Retail service: 10 p.m.

Pasadena P&DC
600 Lincoln Ave.
Pasadena CA 91109
Mail collection: 10 p.m.
Retail service: 10 p.m.

Santa Ana P&DC
3101 W. Sunflower Ave.
Santa Ana CA 92799
Mail collection: midnight
Retail service: 7 p.m.

Van Nuys Post Office
15701 Sherman Way
Van Nuys CA 91409
Mail collection: midnight
Retail service: midnight

B&B Pharmacy
Contact Postal Unit
18525 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Yorba Linda CA 92886
Mail collection: 10 p.m.
Retail service: 10 p.m.