You promised yourself that this would be the year you did your taxes early — that the second you received all of the documents you needed, you would submit your returns, collect your refund and put the matter to bed before the slackers and procrastinators even decided which software to use.
Tax Day, however, is now days away instead of weeks away; and, once again, you’re stressed out and staring down the IRS’s filing deadline.
Relax — but only for a moment.
Not only do you still have time to get across the finish line, but you might have actually done yourself a favor by putting off the inevitable until the last possible moment.
Here’s why waiting until the 11th hour could wind up working in your favor.
It’s Time To Hustle, Not To Panic
The calendar gods gifted the American taxpayer with three extra days to sort out their W-2s and 1099s this year. While April 18 is undeniably better than April 15, anyone who hasn’t filed yet is certainly feeling the heat — but they shouldn’t let it burn them up.
“For many people, the impending tax deadline brings with it a sense of uncertainty, anxiety and the dreaded what-ifs,” said CPA and MBA Tatiana Tsoir. “‘What if I forget to claim something? What if I end up owing? What if I made an error on my forms?’ Or even: ‘What if I have missing money I can claim?'”
Those are all serious questions and perfectly understandable concerns, but stressing over them only increases the likelihood of making avoidable mistakes.
Relax. There’s still time.
“Waiting until the last minute does not mean you need to panic,” Tsoir said. “Take your time and make sure that you have everything lined up and ready to go before you send it. Worst-case scenario, you apply for an extension.”
The Longer You Wait, the Less Likely You’ll Miss a Form
The stress of waiting until the last minute is nothing compared to the stress of receiving an unexpected document after you already have filed your taxes. If a straggler form or two does trickle in after you’ve already punted to the IRS, you’ll have to exhume your returns, recalculate and file a Form 1040-X.
That will leave you wishing that you had waited.
“The biggest benefit of waiting to file your taxes is to allow more time for you to complete your paperwork and receive late or corrected tax forms,” said Shelli Woodward, a tax analyst with Merchant Maverick. “Sometimes tax forms are lost in the mail or are incorrect, and they have to be revised and resent. If you filed before having these forms, it could require an amended tax return to be filed.”
Waiting longer than you might have planned also gives you time to check and double-check the forms you’ve already received while making sure you’ve dotted all your I’s and crossed all your T’s.
“The longer you wait, the more the time you get to review and audit your accounts,” said financial advisor and tax advisor Adam Ng, who worked as a CPA for Absolute Financial Solutions before he founded his own company, Trusted. “Besides, this time can also be well utilized to gather crucial information about deductions and exemptions.”
It Might Be Easier To Get Professional Help
Common wisdom says good tax pros become more expensive and harder to find the closer you get to Tax Day — and that’s true in a lot of cases, but not all. With the vast majority of returns already filed, many tax professionals are just now beginning to see some daylight in their appointment books.
“Delaying until the last minute to file your taxes is a great way to hold off first if you are looking to shop around for tax experts,” said Lucia Jensen, CEO and co-founder of WeLoans. “The beginning of tax season often limits the options of tax experts available, as most of them will not promote their services early on.
“However, towards the close of tax season, you will get more options from friends and family who have filed their taxes and social media suggestions. This pause in the tax filing process allows you to evaluate several tax experts, their costs and who makes a long-term fit for your business and personal taxes.”
Whether you seek professional help or file on your own, the important thing is to remember that, despite the looming deadline, panic only leads to mistakes.
“I like to remind people that taxes do not need to be a source of unbearable stress for consumers,” Tsoir said. “Take a breath, trust in your tax professionals and know that there a very few mistakes that can’t be remedied should the need arise.”
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