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Avoiding penalties for a late federal tax return

In the last several weeks, we have discussed the upcoming April 15 deadline to file federal tax returns. Although many people may have already completed this process, others might simply be waiting to have all of the information necessary to complete a filing. Since the deadline is looming, many of those who are in this situation might be worried about not having enough time.

Of course, this is a very valid concern. After all, the Internal Revenue Service will almost certainly pursue penalties for failure to file on time -- even if it wasn't an intentional act. The important thing to know is that a six-month extension could be an option in this scenario.

As soon as an individual knows that he or she won't be able to submit a return by the deadline, it may be best to request an extension. In fact, the New York Times notes that including a reason for the extension isn’t necessary. The only requirement to avoid most consequences is to submit the request by the end of the day on April 15.

While working to sort out the details of a return during the extension period, individuals should still pay the IRS what they believe they owe by the April deadline. Failure to pay something on time could result in penalties. As soon as it's possible to accurately complete the federal return, everything else can be squared away.

In certain situations, people may simply not be able to complete their return on time or pay in full right away. Honest people can get caught in an unfortunate situation like this. The IRS might be willing to work out an arrangement to pay taxes that are owed, while minimizing penalties and other adverse consequences. Delaying this action, however, might only make the situation worse.

Source: New York Times, "Running Late? Push Federal Tax Day Back to October," Ann Carrns, April 1, 2014

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