The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) want to help you with any last-minute tax uncertainties you may have. Here are 10 questions and answers you may find useful as the deadline for filing your 2011 individual income tax return approaches.
Q. Is April 15 still the deadline for filing my tax return?
A. Not this year. You have two extra days because April 15 is a Sunday and April 16 is a local holiday in the District of Columbia. You will have until midnight on Tuesday, April 17, to file your federal tax return. It is also the due date for first quarter estimates if you are required to pay estimated taxes quarterly.
Q. How can I avoid the mad rush to the post office to mail my tax return before midnight on April 17?
A. You may want to consider e-file. You still need to submit your tax return by April 17, but you can do it more conveniently from your home computer. The IRS strongly encourages taxpayers who have access to a computer to file online at www.IRS.gov. Your local certified public accountant (CPA) can also electronically file your return for you. If you prefer to mail your return, the United States Postal Service uses special procedures and maintains extra-long hours to make it as easy as possible for taxpayers who wait until the last minute to get their returns in the mail by midnight. You can also use one of the IRS-designated private delivery services.
Q. What does it cost to file my return online?
A. There is no charge to use IRS e-file to file your return electronically.
Q. What do I do if I can’t file by the April 17 deadline?
A. Individuals who need additional time should submit a request for an extension by filing IRS Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.”
Q. Can Form 4868 be filed electronically?
A. Yes, or you may request an extension by mailing Form 4868 by midnight on April 17, 2011.
Q. How will I know if my request for an extension has been approved?
A. Filing a Form 4868 on time and in accordance with all IRS requirements automatically grants a taxpayer an extension to file a 2011 income tax return until Oct. 15, 2012.
Q. How complicated is Form 4868? Will I be able to fill it out myself?
A. Form 4868 is very short, and it only asks for basic contact information and requires that you estimate what your taxes are for 2011. If you prefer, a CPA can file the form on your behalf or answer any questions you may have.
Q. Why am I required to estimate my taxes if I’m requesting an extension?
A. Correctly filing Form 4868 only extends the date by which you have to submit your tax return. It does not delay the requirement to pay your taxes by April 17. You will need to estimate the taxes you owe because at least 90 percent of what you owe must be included with Form 4868. If you do not, you likely will be subject to interest and late filing penalties.
Q. What if I request an extension but think I’ll be getting a refund?
A. If you are expecting a refund, you don’t need to do anything other than file Form 4868. However, you will not receive a refund until you have filed your tax return.
Q. Does filing Form 4868 also give me an extension on the deadline for submitting my state income tax forms?
For help getting started preparing your tax return, check the tips on the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Taxes website, a public service site to assist taxpayers year-round with tax filing, tax planning, and tax saving strategies. If you’re hiring a tax preparer, become an informed consumer by reading “Facts to Know When Choosing a Tax Preparer” on the 360Taxes.org website.