Fifty million taxpayers will huddle with their 2004 tax returns in the last week before tomorrow's federal income tax filing deadline.
For most people, returns must be postmarked or filed electronically by April 15.
Procrastinators often are not getting a refund, and some simply don't want to do the paperwork. But the Internal Revenue Service suggests people file returns on time or get an extension.
"If you find yourself up against deadline, it's best to file an automatic extension to Aug. 15, and better to file the extension than to file an incomplete tax return," said Jeff Kelson, of the national accounting firm BDO Seidman. Not filing on time carries a 5 percent monthly penalty.
To get an extension, file Form 4868, "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax," by mail, by telephone, or electronically. To do so properly, estimate how much is owed and pay the amount due with the extension. Otherwise, interest and penalties will be added.
Taxpayers who owe at least $1 can pay by check or by credit card through certain providers listed on www.irs.gov Web site. If paying by check, make it out to "United States Treasury," not the IRS.
Other tips for last-minute filers include to be careful to check the math throughout the return, send all W-2s and appropriate federal forms such as Schedule D, and sign the return.