Jenna Bromberg
April 14, 2013 11:00 am

In college, a friend “turned in” a paper at 11:45 pm on the night of the deadline by sending the professor a Wingding-filled Word document. She bought herself 8 hours to write the paper while she waited for the professor to notify her that the file she sent was “corrupt.” He did, and she sent the completed paper in the morning like no big thang. Genius.

But you can’t pull that with the IRS. You have until 11:59pm Monday, April 15th to file your 2012 tax return, and you really can’t attach a faux-corrupt file to the thing and shoot them an email in the morning. Do it now. Do it online. You’re already on an electronic device connected to the Internet.

1. Get it together immediately.

If you have a simple tax situation, here is an abbreviated list of things you’ll need to get your taxes done: your SSN, income statements (W-2 and/or 1099s), and, if applicable, mortgage statements and loan statements [and here is a long list]. You should have a copy of your 2011 tax return, too – and most online, do-it-yourself tax programs will already have your information right there & filled in for you, as long as you used the same program last year. Check.

If you have a more complicated tax situation, you’re really pretty sure your 2011 taxes took you a few days and maybe you had a rage fit, skip to number 4.

2. Start.

Start. Really. It’s like writing the first sentence of a paper. You will be instantly promoted from A Lady Who Has Not Done Her Taxes to a Lady Who is in the Process of Doing Her Taxes. So that’s good. Usually, the things I postpone most aggressively end up taking me an easy hour in the end, and my determination to procrastinate is really the most exhausting part of the whole ordeal. You may find this to be the case with your taxes.

3. Decide whether you can really get this done.

Once you’ve started, the doing-of-your-taxes will be either smooth sailing or The Worst. Gotta be real with yourself on this one: can you get this done by 11:59 pm Monday? Because if the answer is no, file an extension. Buy yourself six months. You will be wearing scarves again in six months, and I’m sure you and your autumn scarf will be prepared to face this at that time.

4. Embrace the extension.

So: extensions. If your tax situation ends up being more complicated than you’d anticipated (and I assume you’re anticipating a blissful absence of complicatedness, considering you’ve left yourself a couple hours to do this), you’re missing a form or you’re just ugh no stop it I can’t even, file an extension. This grants you 6 extra months to file, and you don’t have to explain yourself to the IRS and make up a whole big thing about your grandmother. Fill out form 4868 through your tax software, online, or through a tax professional, submit it by the April 15th tax deadline — and you’ll have until October 15th, 2013 to file your 2012 tax return.

But! This gives you 6 extra months to file your completed tax return; it does not give you extra time to pay the taxes you owe (if you’re not due a refund). You’ll need to use an online calculator to estimate your tax liability and, if it turns out you owe and you’re not getting a refund, you’ll need to submit the “good-faith” estimated payment when you file your extension.

5. If you’ve made a mistake, all is not lost.

So, you’ve decided to file on time but you’re kinda rushed– and you’re afraid you overlooked a huge deduction, missed a credit or just sucked at it.

All is not lost! You can always go back later in the year and file an amended return to correct any mistakes or claim some extra refund dollars. In fact, if you’re reading this and thinking you screwed up last year and the year before, too, you can actually file amended returns back three years (this is what companies like H&R Block are talking about when they say they ‘uncover’ money others may have missed).

Anyway, you’ll be fine. You always pull things off. Good luck.

Featured image via Shutterstock

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