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Are you a tax procrastinator? Here are a few tips for last-minute filers

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If you're one of those folks who have put off doing your taxes until the last day -- well, this is it. And you have a lot of company.

Up to 30 percent of taxpayers file their returns within the last two weeks of tax season, according to the Internal Revenue Service. So, if you're poring over a pile of W-2s, tax forms and receipts to get your tax return done by midnight tonight, here are a few tips to help get you through the process a little bit more easily.


1. Don't panic if you don't owe anything

If you are going to get a refund, there’s no penalty if you file your returns after April 15. That’s because late penalties are based on the amount you owe to the IRS. The main disadvantage if you don’t file on time is that you’ll have to wait longer for your refund from the IRS.

2. Be careful filling out your forms

The biggest problems with tax returns are often the easiest to prevent, because they usually happen when you're in a hurry. Even the simplest mistakes can delay a refund. The three most common mistakes on tax returns are math errors, incorrectly written Social Security numbers, and failure to sign or date the tax return.

3. Don’t overlook tax-saving deductions and credits

An easy way to make sure you're not overlooking any tax breaks is to take another look at last year's tax return, to see if you can claim similar deductions or credits on your 2014 return. Even if you don't itemize you might still be eligible for some tax breaks, including moving expenses and up to $2,500 in student-loan interest.

4. Don't waste time on the small stuff

Don't take the time to document deductions you probably won't be able to claim; out-of-pocket medical expenses is one example. To claim that deduction you will need to itemize, and you can only deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (7.5 percent if you were 65 or older on Dec. 31, 2014). The same is true for charitable contributions, unless you itemize.

From the IRS:

5. File on time, even if you owe but can't pay

If you owe taxes but can’t pay by April 15, you should still file your return on time and pay as much as you can, to lessen the penalties and interest charges you'll incur. If you can’t pay the entire amount you can apply for an installment agreement. Find it on the IRS website: Online Payment Agreement.

6. File an extension if needed, by tonight

If you need more time to complete your tax return, you can get an automatic six-month extension. But you need to fill out an extension request and submit that by the deadline of midnight tonight. Find it on the IRS website: IRS Free File. Each year, about 7 percent of U.S. taxpayers - about 8 million people - request an extension, so you're not alone.

Important note: The extension is for filing your return. It doesn't mean you get an extension for paying your taxes if you owe anything. So you still should pay your estimated tax obligation - or as much as possible - by the midnight deadline, even if you ask for an extension.

7. Minnesota state tax extension

The rule for getting an extension on your Minnesota state tax return is the same as for the federal one: If you can't file by April 15, you have an extra six months - until Oct. 15 - to get it done. You do not need to file any additional forms to get the state extension.

But just as with the IRS, if you owe taxes to the state of Minnesota, you still need to pay up by April 15 or arrange a payment plan. Find out more on the Revenue Department website.

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