It’s October 13th and I’m Still Not Ready to File my Taxes; What Should I Do?

Somewhere, there’s a procrastinator wondering that exact question. He’s likely thinking, “I don’t have to do anything; I have until October 15th!” That’s not a good answer (with one exception [1]).

First, most tax professionals will not be able to fit you in. I took in one new client appointment this week—and he’s filling a cancellation. Determine your income, gather all your documents, and do your best. Tax forms are available online (the IRS website is actually quite good). Commercial tax software, though flawed [2], is a good choice at this point in time.

If possible, file electronically. If you must mail your tax return, use certified mail, return receipt requested. That means going to a post office or using an automated postal center (there’s one at the supermarket near my house).

Normally it’s better to extend than amend. If you’re a procrastinator, you can’t extend. Thus, if you file your return and you’re still a bit uncertain, consider meeting with a tax professional next week. He or she can review the return and determine if your return needs to be amended.

The clock is about to strike midnight.

[1] I have one client who is on extension who was impacted by the terrible flooding in South Carolina. That client has a lot more to deal with right now than filing taxes. The IRS and the South Carolina Department of Revenue extended the tax deadline for impacted South Carolinians until February 16, 2016.

[2] I disagree with fellow tax professional Robert Flach on his description that all tax software is fatally flawed. For individuals in simple situation it works perfectly. It doesn’t make math mistakes. And it usually allows for seamless electronic filing. I agree with Robert that the ability to look at a return and evaluate what’s on it (does it pass the smell test) is vital but when you’re up against a deadline, you don’t have a choice.

3 Responses to “It’s October 13th and I’m Still Not Ready to File my Taxes; What Should I Do?”

  1. Russ-

    To be honest, I do not believe that all tax software is “fatally flawed”. But it is flawed. I do believe that the basic taxpayer with no training or experience in tax returns is fatally flawed. The basic rule of “garbage-in, garbage-out” certainly applies.

    What I have always said is –

    “No software package, or online filing service, is a substitute for knowledge of the Tax Code. And no tax software package, or online filing service, is a substitute for a competent, experienced tax professional.”

    I doubt that you would disagree with that.

    When I talk about tax software being “flawed” it is in my reasons for not using it myself in my practice. I refer to tax preparation software as “flawed and expensive” – not “fatally flawed”. Again, I doubt that you would disagree with that. I am constantly hearing tax pros recount stories of how they have to “force” their software to accept a correct answer at CPE events.

    The obvious solution is not to wait until the last minute to file your tax return.


  2. […] how to file? If you haven’t started yet (ugh), Russ Fox has some tips. If your return is done and you just need to file, e-file if at all possible. That gives you the […]