Tax Day 2011: Last-Minute Tips to Keep the Internal Revenue Service Away

Article excerpt

The Internal Revenue Service has taken on a gentler demeanor in recent years, but let's face it: The IRS still wants you to pay what you owe, and to pay it on time. This year, on time means April 18, due to a calendar quirk involving the District of Columbia's celebration of Emancipation Day. State deadlines may vary.Here are nine tips that tax experts (and the friendly Internal Revenue Service itself) offer to help keep you from getting audited, owing a penalty, paying more than you really owe, or having to file an amended return because of a mistake:

The Internal Revenue Service has taken on a gentler demeanor in recent years, but let's face it: The IRS still wants you to pay what you owe, and to pay it on time. This year, on time means April 18, due to a calendar quirk involving the District of Columbia's celebration of Emancipation Day. State deadlines may vary.

Here are nine tips that tax experts (and the friendly Internal Revenue Service itself) offer to help keep you from getting audited, owing a penalty, paying more than you really owe, or having to file an amended return because of a mistake:

#9 Don't forget something basic

H&R Block, a provider of tax services and software, says some of the most common omissions include failing to sign and date your return, not including your payment (a check or credit card information), or neglecting to accurately report income from documents like a 1099 report on interest or dividends from a financial firm. Also check things like your filing status, address, dependents claimed, Social Security number, or bank's routing number (when requesting a refund by direct deposit).

#8 Have one more think about credits and deductions

Have you checked your eligibility for newer credits (Like "Making Work Pay") or older ones (like the child and earned-income credits)? In addition to monetary gifts to charity, can you deduct in-kind gifts for example? The American Opportunity Credit is worth up to $2,500 for tuition, books, and higher-education fees.

#7 Consider an IRA or HSA contribution

One of those tax breaks might be for your Individual Retirement Account, if you can make a contribution by April 18, make sure it's tallied as "for 2010," and list it on your tax return. The maximum contribution for 2010 is $5,000 for people under age 50, and $6,000 for those 50 and over, says Intuit, the maker of TurboTax software. …