Tax Tips For Procrastinators

It's the dreaded 'Tax Day.' Tell Me More offers some tips for those who still haven't filed their taxes yet. Host Michel Martin speaks with NPR Senior Business Editor Marilyn Geewax.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Well, that was fun, but some people might still need some tax tips, so now let's turn to Marilyn Geewax. She's a senior business editor at NPR. Marilyn, thank you so much for stopping by.

MARILYN GEEWAX, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. I do have some of those tax tips for all of your procrastinators out there.

MARTIN: OK. So what's the first thing someone should do if he or she has still not filed his or her taxes, especially if they're filing the old-fashioned way by snail mail?

GEEWAX: Yes. You actually can still use paper, pen and envelope. You just have to remember three things that the IRS requires. You have to have the correct address on the envelope. You've got have the correct postage and you've got to get it postmarked by no later than 11:59 tonight.

MARTIN: Some people will be filing online. Do you have any tips for people who are doing it that way?

GEEWAX: You still have to make that 11:59 P.M. deadline. Just file your taxes online, IRS.gov, and it will be time-stamped and, fortunately, those transmitters recognize the time and date where you are, so if it's midnight in Boston, that's when you have to get it filed. If you live in Seattle, you've got until midnight in your time zone, even though that's three hours later.

MARTIN: Are there any dangers to filing online at the last minute?

GEEWAX: One thing that you should be really careful about is filing in a public place. You might want to run down to your local coffee shop and set up with all your papers there. Not a good idea. Don't be in the airport. Don't be in one of those public places. Security experts say you really should file from home and don't be tempted to use that work computer because there could be a network administrator who's electronically looking over your shoulder.

MARTIN: If you just have to file an extension - and there are all kinds of reasons why people might have to file an extension. They might have documents that they have to have to file that just haven't been delivered by a third party, you know, for example or something like that. What do you do?

GEEWAX: It's really pretty routine. People end up traveling. They have a baby. Somebody in the family gets sick. It's OK, but you can push the deadline back until October 15th by simply going to that IRS website, filing for the extension, or you can even do it by mail. There's something called a Form 4868 that you can use, So, it's pretty easy to do, but the important thing to remember there is this is a filing extension. You still owe the taxes, so if you think you're going to owe the government some money, go ahead and do your best estimate, pay it now and then you can sort it out later and, if it turns out you overpaid, you can always get that refund.

MARTIN: Anything else that you want to tell us, Marilyn?

GEEWAX: Let me just emphasize that, you know, this is a serious business. Being a citizen means you have to pay your taxes and they give you until April 15th and easily enough till October 15th, so let's all just do our part.

MARTIN: OK. And that is no joke.

GEEWAX: Right.

MARTIN: NPR's Marilyn Geewax is with us. Thank you, Marilyn.

GEEWAX: Oh, you're welcome, Michel.

MARTIN: And if you missed this, if you just tuned in or if you want Marilyn to hold your hand on the - you know, online, of course, just go to npr.org. She's filing a piece there. Just look for tax tips.

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MARTIN: Up next, Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o has been arrested, beaten and forced into exile for criticizing his country's government, but that has never stopped him from speaking his mind. He joins us for a special Wisdom Watch conversation and talks with us about his life and work. That's ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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