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Last-Minute Tax Preparation Tips Can Prevent Common Mistakes

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Taxpayers who plan on pulling an all-nighter this weekend to get their taxes done can follow some last-minute tips to avoid common mistakes. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

The tax deadline is Monday, but New Yorkers who have yet to file are hardly alone. Congress did not pass a number of tax changes until early January, and as a result, the IRS had to delay the start of the filing season in some cases for several weeks.

Whatever the reason they are procrastinating, taxpayers should not short-change themselves in the last-minute frenzy. Mark Steber, the chief tax office for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, says this time of year the biggest mistakes are those of omission.

"They'll overlook that tax deduction, that tax credit or that tax benefit in the speed or in the hurry to get it done," Steber says.

Under-report one's income, and the IRS will be sure to correct it. But the agency is not likely to correct something that will work in a taxpayer's favor, like a missing deduction or dependent.

"It's generally going to stay off and that is money left off of your tax return and there's no mechanism with which that will get caught and put back on," says Steber.

As the countdown to the deadline winds down your best bet is to sit down at a computer.

"Last year, over 80 percent of all federal tax filers filed electronically. It's secure, it's safe, it reduces errors," says IRS spokeswoman Dianne Besunder. "Paper returns we see up to 20 percent errors. Electronically filed returns, less than 1 percent errors."

"It's always a good idea to e-file," says Steber. "But as you get into these final hours, these final days of tax deadline, it makes more sense than ever not to risk the stamp falling off or not being received in time or waiting on line."

Those who just cannot get it done can always file and even e-file for an automatic six-month extension.

"You can get it for no reason whatsoever. But it's important to remember this, it's only an extension of time to send in your forms. If you owe tax due, you still have to get that paid on midnight of the 15th," says Steber.

Be warned, there are penalties for failing to pay and for missing the filing deadline. Those who do owe money can pay online, on the phone or by writing a check. An installment agreement can also be set up, but it will have fees and interest. To find out more, visit irs.gov/payments.

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