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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 14, 2002

IRS shares tips, offers advice to cut stress

Advertiser News Services

In a last-minute rush to finish your taxes? The Internal Revenue Service offers these tips:

• Free tax assistance. The IRS offers recorded messages on about 150 tax topics through its TeleTax service at (800) 829-4477. It also offers federal tax forms and publications at 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Many post offices and libraries carry the most widely requested forms and instructions.

Libraries may also have reference sets of IRS publications.

• IRS online. Taxpayers accessed the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov more than 1.5 billion times last year.

Anyone with Internet access can download tax forms, instructions and publications as well as tax law information and answers to frequently asked tax questions.

• File electronically. More than 40 million taxpayers filed their returns electronically in 2001.

Aside from ease of filing, IRS e-file is the fastest and most accurate way to file a tax return.

If you're due a refund, the wait time for e-filers is half that of paper filers.

• Double-check math and facts. Review your return for possible math errors and make sure the names and identification numbers for you, your spouse and your dependents are correct and legible.

• Have a refund deposited directly to a bank account. Another way to speed up your refund and reduce the chance of theft is to have the amount deposited directly to your bank account.

Check the tax instructions for details on entering the routing and account numbers on your tax return.

• Don't panic if you can't pay. If you can't immediately pay the taxes you owe, consider some stress-reducing alternatives.

You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, setting your own monthly payment amount and due date, and getting a reduced late payment penalty rate.

You also have various options for charging your balance on a credit card, either as part of an electronic return or via a phone call to a processing agent.

Electronic filers with a balance due can file early and authorize the government's financial agent to take the money directly from their checking or savings account on the due date.

Note that if you file your tax return or a request for an extension on time, even if you can't pay, you avoid potential late filing penalties.

• Request an extension of time to file. If the clock runs out, you can get an automatic four-month extension of time to file, to Aug. 15.

An extension of time to file does not give you an extension of time to pay, however.

You can call (888) 796-1074, e-file a Form 4868 that is included in most tax preparation software, or send a paper Form 4868 to the IRS.

You will need the Adjusted Gross Income and Total Tax amounts from your 2000 return if you request the extension by computer or phone.

You still will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date.