2012 tax filing deadline quickly winds down


H&R Block locations around Southern California were prepared to help a flood of procrastinators, and tax professionals Eileen Brown and Carmen Mendez had reminders and tips for tax filers.

If you don't file taxes by midnight

Brown says the next best option for people who miss the filing deadline is to file for an extension. That's form 4868. Filing the extension helps avoid the tax penalty, especially if you owe the IRS. Those who owe and don't file on time could face a penalty of 5 to 25 percent. The form should be postmarked or emailed by midnight.

The Fresh Start Initiative

Brown also explained the new Fresh Start Initiative. The initiative allows you to delay a penalty, provided you pay the IRS by October 15, which is the deadline for extensions. Carmen Mendez says anyone who has been unemployed for 30 consecutive days last year up to now or anyone who owns a business and has seen a 25 percent decrease in business qualify for the Fresh Start Initiative.

Tax extensions don't give you more time to pay

Tax delayers beware! The belief that filing for an extension is a way to put off paying the government is incorrect, according to Brown and Mendez. They say the point of an extension is not to give you more time to pay, but rather to give you more time to gather your necessary tax documents.

Don't overlook your deductions

In the rush to meet the deadline, Brown says it is easy to overlook any tax deductions you may have. She says the most commonly overlooked tax deductions are education credits. These education credits include lifetime learning and tuition and fees. However, Brown says it can be tricky picking which one applies to you. Other tax deductions filers can claim include life events like a birth in the family, a marriage or a new home purchase, or getting or losing a job. Tax deductions that go unreported can translate into hundreds if not thousands of unclaimed dollars.

Have proof of filing your taxes

Whether you're utilizing snail mail or the Internet, make sure you have proof that you filed. It's a good idea to get a receipt of the postmark if you're sending your documents through the mail. If you're e-filing, print out or save your electronic confirmation, especially if you file in the last few hours before midnight.

H&R Block will overlook your tax returns if you feel you need them double-checked. You can also file a tax extension with H&R Block on their website or in-person at an H&R Block location.

The post office is also working overtime this tax day to ease the last-minute rush. Several post office locations in Los Angeles, Orange County and the Valley will stay open until either 10 p.m. or midnight, depending on the location.

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