Start the countdown. The deadline to file your taxes is now less than a month away. Need some tips? Look no further! Here's the rundown from the folks at the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board.
1) Don't wait. Thanks to a federal holiday, tax day this year is April 17th. That's two extra days for all you procrastinators, but waiting until the last minute usually means you'll end up missing some savings.
2) Your state taxes may already be done fore you! Some 2 million Californians qualify for what's called a "Ready Return," which is based on information that's already on file. You log in, check the info, and send it in.
3) Get some help. The IRS offers in person help at its office at 4330 Watt Avenue in Sacramento. You can visit their website for questions. For state taxes, the FTB offers help over the phone at (800) 852-5711 or online through a chat system.
4) Beware of scams. Taxpayers should be on alert for tax preparers who ask for fees up front. The IRS has plenty of tips about scams and how to choose a tax preparer. Avoid those who promise they can get a larger refund than others.
5) If you don't have the cash, set up a payment plan. Both the IRS and FTB let taxpayers set up installment plans, which charge interest but can help you avoid penalties.
6) Get an extension if you're not done on time. The IRS will let you file for a six-month extension on your tax returns. In California, there's an automatic six-month extension. You'll have to pay before time is up or face both penalties and interest.