The countdown is on. Including today, there are three days left to file your taxes.
Tax preparers urge anyone hoping to meet the Monday deadline to get help this weekend — whether online or in person. And for anyone unable to meet the deadline, they have some simple, often-overlooked advice: an extension to file is not an extension to pay.
“You can get extensions to file very easily,” said Mike Lepkowski, manager of the Jackson Hewitt Tax Service office on Central Avenue in Colonie. “But what people don’t realize months later is the money was due April 15, which is why when you sit down to file these extensions, without going to a professional, it’ll be hard to know what to pay.”
Most tax professionals will keep their doors open late this weekend. Select post offices will have extended hours, too, for anyone scrambling to get their returns postmarked by the 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline — though not as many as in the past, now that most Americans file their taxes electronically.
To find out which post offices will be open later than 6 p.m. Monday, visit http://tools.usps.com.
A sure bet for late filing in the Capital Region was usually the U.S. Postal Service processing facility at 30 Karner Road in Colonie, near the intersection with Central Avenue. Just a few years ago, when large numbers of people were still filing by mail, Lepkowski used to sit and watch the commotion across the street.
“Our main office is right across from that post office, so to us, it was always pretty hilarious, the amount of people that came at the very end,” he said. “They would come in at quarter to 12, and the post office would have lanes blocked off, and police would be directing traffic, and the guy would be out there making sure that envelope got stamped on the 15th.”
But in 2011, it scaled back its extended hours to 10 p.m., and then the next year to 8:30 p.m. This year, the Karner Road office will be open until 7 p.m. on Tax Day.
The post office at Colonie Center will have the latest extended hours in the Capital Region on Monday, with doors open until 8 p.m.
Tax professionals from the area offered the following tips to last-minute filers:
• Get help from professionals: Whether you visit a tax preparer in person or use online tax preparation software, make sure the service you use is qualified. You can also find local volunteers at www.irs.gov through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs.
• Don’t forget commonly overlooked credits and deductions: There have been close to 4,500 changes to the tax code in the last decade, according to H&R Block, so it can be easy to miss things like the Earned Income Tax Credit, out-of-pocket charitable contributions, job-hunting costs, energy efficiency credits and child care credits.
• Avoid silly mistakes: A family in Detroit selected the wrong filing status (single, married, head of household, etc.) and ended up paying $5,500 extra. A common faux pas continues to be mixing up names or Social Security numbers. Basic math errors are also a popular mistake, as well as under-reporting income, which can result in additional taxes and penalties.
For more information on filing options in the final stretch, visit www.irs.gov/filing.