(ABC News) — If you are just starting to file your taxes, know that you are not alone. According to the IRS, 20 to 25 percent of people wait to file until two weeks before the deadline.
Tax day is April 18 instead of April 15 this year, because Emancipation Day falls on April 15. Emancipation Day recognizes the day when President Lincoln freed more than 3,000 slaves in the nation’s capital and is an official public holiday in the District of Columbia (it also takes precedence over the tax deadline, according to IRS rules).
So take a deep breath, slow down and follow these tips before April 18 from Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and tax expert at TurboTax.
Gather your documents in one place
When you sit down to file your taxes, make sure you have all the necessary documents like W-2s, 1099s, receipts for expenses, mortgage interest, and your kids’ social security numbers in front of you, Greene-Lewis suggested.
E-file with direct deposit
If you are expecting a tax refund, e-file with direct deposit is easy, secure and the fastest way to get your federal tax refund, Greene-Lewis said. Nine out of 10 tax refunds are issued within 21 days or less, compared to six to eight weeks for paper-filed tax returns, according to the IRS.
Double-check important information
According to the IRS, one of the top mistakes taxpayers make when rushing to meet the tax deadline is gathering incorrect Social Security numbers for their children and spouses. “Correct Social Security numbers are required to get valuable tax deductions, credits and exemptions,” Greene-Lewis said.
Don’t forget what you did last year
The IRS reports that the majority of taxpayers – about 75 percent – take the standard deduction. But including a few additional receipts may push you over the standard deduction and lower your tax liability, Greene-Lewis said.
Don’t forget about the money you shelled out for expenses
Possible expenses include previous state tax liability paid, job search expenses and summer day camp.
“Even the cost of moving a pet may save you money on taxes,” Greene-Lewis said.
Remember to include charitable contributions made throughout the year. For example, donated clothing, household goods and even mileage to and from charitable events may be eligible.
Don’t wait for Form 1095-B or 1095-C
If you have employer provided insurance, private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, you may be waiting for Form 1095-B or C, but there is no need to wait. Per the IRS, you do not need to file these forms with your taxes.
“They are for information only so go ahead and file,” Greene-Lewis said.
File even if you owe
“Remember going on extension only extends the time to file your taxes, but if you owe you are still required to pay what you owe,” Greene-Lewis said. Even if you owe money, you can ask the IRS for an installment agreement when you file your taxes. The installment agreement will allow you to pay your tax debt over six years.