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After Tax Day: Tips to Help Make Next Year’s Taxes Go Smoother

April 25, 2017
After Tax Day: Tips to Help Make Next Year’s Taxes Go Smoother
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The April 18 filing deadline has come and gone. How did it go? Did you file a month ago, or did you scramble to finish by 11:59 p.m. that night? Or, worse yet, did you wait until the last minute, only to discover you were missing a key document?

If you missed the deadline, are awaiting a refund, or have other questions, here are a few pointers that might help.

Overslept and Missed the Deadline? Don’t Panic.

Missed the filing deadline? If you missed the filing deadline and didn't get an extension, the IRS suggests you do so as soon as possible, especially if you owe taxes. The quicker you can pay, the faster the penalties and interest will stop. Even if you can’t pay in full, pay something, the IRS says, and you may be able to set up installments with their online payment agreement tool. Or, you can use Form 9465.

Looking for your refund? The IRS lets you track where and when your money will arrive. On the IRS website, go to “Where’s My Refund?” Once there, type in the primary filer’s Social Security Number, filing status (i.e., single, married filing jointly) and the amount of refund you expect. They even have a mobile app for that: IRS2G0.

Made a mistake? Relax; it happens. If it’s a math error, the IRS will usually correct it. Also, the IRS may even accept your return if you forgot some forms or schedules. However, if you forgot to include reportable income, or any deductions or credits, pull up Form 1040X and follow the instructions to amend the return.

Need a form? TD Ameritrade’s Form Library has all of the forms relevant to your TD Ameritrade account, all in one place.

Get a Head Start on Next Year

Get organized to make it easier next year. “Being proactive is really the key. Set up a spreadsheet with all your tax deductions and put them in when you’re writing a check,” said Dean Hedeker, owner of Hedeker Wealth. “Most people wait for January.”

Check your withholdings. Did you pay too little in taxes from a job, or get a huge refund? Withholdings may be the issue. Check with your HR department to see how much is being sent to Uncle Sam each pay period, said Michael Osakwe, writer at Contact HR right away if you’ve had a big life change, such as getting married or having a kid, as that can also affect filing status, he added. Rather figure out withholdings yourself? The IRS has a calculator for employees to use. For people who are self-employed or are subject to the alternative minimum tax or other taxes, the IRS says turn to Pub 505, which gives more detail on tax withholding.

Fund a retirement plan. Potentially lower taxable income by sheltering money in a traditional individual retirement account, 401(k), or Simplified Employee Pension (SEP), said Hedeker and Osakwe. You potentially get two benefits there—not only do you potentially reduce taxes now, but you’re also funding your future. You can put up to $5,500 in an traditional IRA, and people over 50 can kick in another $1,000. For 401(k)s, it’s up to $18,000 for under 50, $24,000 for over 50, and for SEPs it’s 15% of income.

Hedeker said doing it now is a good idea. “You don’t have to wait to do it. Do it now and start earning money on it for this year," he said.

All investments involve risk, including potential loss of principal.

TD Ameritrade does not provide tax advice. Please consult with a qualified tax advisor with regard to your specific tax circumstances.

A Heaping Teaspoon of Tax Information

The Tax Resources page is a trove of tax info, including calculators, guides, an archive of relevant content, and a link to IRS and tax forms.

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