April 13, 2012 12:24:26 PM
Procrastinators rejoice: You have an extra two days this year to file your 2011 federal income tax return. Because April 15 falls on a Sunday, and Emancipation Day -- a holiday in the District of Columbia -- is Monday, the deadline to file taxes will be Tuesday.
More than 144 million people are expected to file individual tax returns this year, said officials with the Internal Revenue Service.
Most are expected to file before the April 17 deadline, but Columbus Certified Public Accountant Elaine Evans said many people seem to be waiting until the last minute. Her advice? Either file as soon as possible, or ask your accountant to file an automatic six-month extension on your behalf.
There's a caveat to extensions though: They only apply to filing forms and documentation. If you owe taxes, you're still expected to pay by April 17; otherwise, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the IRS.
"If you owe, you owe, and they're going to penalize you," Evans said. "A lot of times, people that owe will put it off, until the end, but you'll pay a price for doing that. It's best to go ahead and file."
Of course, some file tax returns as soon as possible, especially those who expect a refund, Evans said.
If you're expecting a refund, there are a couple of ways to check the status. Those who file online at irs.gov via e-file can check the status after 72 hours. Refunds are generally disbursed within 10 to 21 days. The status of mailed tax returns is available within around four weeks. Errors may delay the processing of your return.
You can also check your refund status using the "Where's my refund?" tool at irs.gov, or Apple and Android smartphone users can download the free IRS2Go application.
If you haven't filed your taxes, help still is available. Individuals who made $50,000 or less can receive free tax preparation services, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. People age 60 or older are eligible for free tax counseling and basic tax preparation services, through Tax Counseling for the Elderly.
Program volunteers will be upstairs in the meeting room of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers will be at the Starkville-Oktibbeha County Public Library today, Monday and Tuesday from noon to 4 p.m.
The Columbus library still has some tax forms available, but in a limited supply.
"Fewer and fewer forms are available in print," Columbus-Lowndes Library Director Alice Shands said Thursday. "Years ago, they used to ship libraries boxes and boxes of paper forms. We don't get much anymore. It's all online."
As in prior years around tax season, the Starkville Tea Party will protest the federal government Saturday at noon at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse. The Columbus Tea Party will not hold a tax protest this year, said Vice-Chairman Randolph Lipscomb.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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