If you opened the newspaper this morning and gasped when you noticed that it is April 15, todays federal tax return deadline might have slipped your mind. Maybe you havent filed yet because time got away from you or you owe more in taxes than you can afford.
Calculating federal tax liability and making payments is a crucial issue for small-business owners and sole proprietors whose business and personal finances are often closely intertwined.
While you still might be sorting out the 2013 tax year, you might also be facing your first tax payment deadline of 2014. Today is the due date for sole proprietors and partners in a partnership to make their first quarterly estimated tax payment of the year.
Here are some last-minute filing tips.
File by midnight: The IRS is firm about the midnight deadline, so the best strategy is to complete your form and file on time. But that isnt always possible if you are waiting on key informational documents from someone else or just cant organize that overflowing shoebox and put together an accurate return.
If you cant pay everything you owe, the IRS encourages you to make the midnight deadline and remit as much as you can. The agency will allow you to set up a payment plan for the rest by applying on the IRS website or submitting paper Form 9465.
If you have a financial hardship that prevents you from paying, the IRS might work with you on payment details.
File for an extension: If there is no possibility of filing a return by midnight, you can ask the IRS for a six-month extension. Follow the proper procedure online or complete paper Form 4868 and the extension is granted automatically. The request for an extension is due April 15.
While the extension gives you six additional months to prepare the return and gather the correct documents, it isnt designed to give you six extra months to pay your tax liability.
The IRS expects you to estimate what you owe, and pay that by April 15. Youll be charged interest on the outstanding balance and you may be subject to an additional late fee penalty.
The six-month extension removes the immediate stress of gathering and organizing information, but its not a license to forget about your tax obligation. The Oct. 15 deadline is a firm one for the IRS. There arent any extensions of the extension.
What if its overwhelming? If it gets down to the final hours and you realize that calculating your own return is too overwhelming or too complicated, it is probably best to file for an extension on your own.
You can always make an appointment once todays deadline has passed to have a CPA or an enrolled agent take over your tax project even if that person didnt file your extension request. Just make sure time doesnt get away from you and you are in the same situation in October.
Carla Turchetti is a small-business writer and journalist. Reach her at email@example.com.