Don’t panic: Follow these tips, and Tax Day won’t be painful

Staff writerApril 14, 2014 

IRS Tax Day

This photo taken April 13, 2014, shows the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington at daybreak. Tuesday, April 15, is the federal tax filing deadline for most Americans.

J. DAVID AKE — AP

You buy your frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning, you do all your Christmas shopping on Dec. 24 and you still haven’t done your 2013 tax return.

You’ve still got time – just over 24 hours.

The News Tribune has reviewed advice from the Internal Revenue Service and other sources. For those of you who may have procrastinated — or for those of you who are already thinking about your 2014 taxes — here’s a look at what they have to say.

And if you’re wondering about marijuana and the IRS, read on.

Question: What kinds of documents should I have?

Answer: Receipts, canceled checks and other records that support income, deductions and tax credits. For charitable donations, you should have a note from any 501(c)(3) recipient listing the amount given and the appropriate IRS registration number.

Q: What kinds of income should I report?

A: All of it, and the information should be outlined with Form W2 and Form 1099 income statements. And don’t forget to report that slot machine jackpot you won – you’ll need to file Form W-2G.

Q: I’ve heard a lot about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Am I eligible?

A: Perhaps. Eligibility depends on income and family size. The credit may await you even though you might not think you earned enough to qualify. You can check eligibility requirements at irs.gov.

Q: Can I file for free?

A: You can prepare and e-file your return using IRS Free File. Start at irs.gov/Filing. The software is free if you earned less than $58,000 last year.

And consider e-filing your return. Last year, more than 122 million taxpayers used the online process.

Q: I have a medical condition, and with a doctor’s authorization I legally smoke marijuana. Can I deduct the cost of my medicine?

A: As with hair transplants and teeth whitening, the use of controlled substances is not deductible. So even though you need that marijuana for your condition, you cannot deduct the cost of the product.

Q: On the same subject, I legally sell marijuana. (I’ve applied for a license under Initiative 502, but I sell it now for medicinal purposes.) Can I deduct my business expenses?

A: David Tucker, regional spokesman for the IRS, said last week, “I am declining comment because it is against federal law for the IRS to comment on any individual, business entity or industry.”

He also referred to U.S. Code Section 280E, which says, “No deduction or credit shall be allowed for any amount paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business if such trade or business (or the activities which comprise such trade or business) consists of trafficking in controlled substances (within the meaning of schedule I and II of the Controlled Substances Act) which is prohibited by Federal law or the law of any State in which such trade or business is conducted.”

So no deductions.

But if you had business income that should otherwise be reported, then you do need to report it

Q: How long will I have to wait for my refund check to arrive?

A: It depends on several factors. The quickest and safest way would be to use direct deposit. Once submitted and accepted, you can then check payment status at irs.gov/Refunds. The IRS says you can check within 24 hours after it has received your e-filed tax return, or four weeks after you mail your paper return.

Q: If I owe money, can I delay paying it?

A: If you owe money, you will need to pay it by the April 15 deadline. If you find you can’t pay what you owe and might need to pay by installments, visit irs.gov/Individuals/Online-Payment-Agreement-Application to check your eligibility for the Online Payment Agreement program. Down the road, if you owe much more than you are able to pay, consider the Offer in Compromise program.

If you are going to be late filing your return, you should contact the IRS and ask for an extension. Forms are available online at irs.gov/uac/Extension-of-Time-To-File-Your-Tax-Return.

Q: Does the IRS give any advice based on common mistakes that people make on their returns?

A: Yes. Always review your return, especially math computations and Social Security numbers listed. Mistakes “slow down the receipt of your tax refund,” the IRS says.

Q: Not a week seems to go by without some scare story about identity theft or a major data breach. Any advice on security?

A: Always be alert to the possibility that someone out there would love to have your Social Security number and other personal information. Keep such data safe. Don’t click “Yes” or “Submit” unless you know who will receive your data. And regularly check your bank and credit card statements for any anomalies.

Q: Oops! I just looked at the clock and it’s 7:45 p.m. on April 15. My computer crashed so I cannot file electronically. What can I do?

A: If you’re in Tacoma — or Olympia — where all post offices will close at their regular time, put the proper postage on your return and drive to the U.S. Postal Service processing center at 4001 S. Pine St., Tacoma.

They’ll be postmarking mail until midnight.

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