Tax Deadline 2012: What last-minute filers should know

April 16, 2012

As Tax Day 2012 arrives, The Post’s Maggie Fazeli Fard shares some good and bad news about the filing deadline:

Bad news first: Not all post offices will be staying open late on April 17 to accommodate procrastinators counting on making a mad dash to the post office at midnight.

According to USPS, the majority of Americans now file their taxes electronically, making the extended hours an unnecessary expense for the agency, which is grappling with a budget shortfall.

This year’s April 17 deadline grants a two-day reprieve from the traditional filing deadline of April 15, which fell on Sunday this year.

The deadline was delayed one additional day because Monday is the 150th anniversary of D.C.’s emancipation, which is treated like a federal holiday, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“It’s just this quirky little thing in the law,” IRS spokesman Eric Smith told NPR.

Find out which Washington area post office locations will stay open late here.

If you happen to be in a rush to file, make sure to take extra care on the roads. New research finds that traffic fatalities rise an average of 6 percent on Tax Day, comparable to the danger of driving on Super Bowl Sunday.

And now, the good news: Tax Day freebies. Dining In D.C. offers this list of Washington area restaurants, bars and companies making Tax Day a little easier to bear.

The Post’s Hayley Tsukayama offers some tips on how to file online for those who are cutting it close:

It’s a classic story: You got your W-2 forms way back in February, got your papers in order to file your taxes and then called it a day. Suddenly it’s mid-April and you realize you never took the last step — to file.

There’s some good news. For one, tax day wasn’t April 15 this year, it’s been moved to April 17. That’s thanks to some fortuitous calendar coincidences, as the traditional tax day fell on Sunday this year, followed by the D.C. holiday, Emancipation Day. If you haven’t prepared your taxes yet, however, this is no time to take a break.

Lucky for you, we live in an era in which technology has made paperwork a much less frustrating ordeal. There are a few tax apps that can help you wade through all those checkboxes and forms.

There's still time to e-file, which will eliminate panic over mailbox pickup deadlines and a potentially deadly rush to the post office. If your income is $57,000 or less, the IRS even has set up a way for you to file for free using a third-party tax preparation service to keep you from having to wade through the paperwork yourself. Qualifying filers can choose from 15 services, though each have their own limits on who is eligible for the free prep.

If you don’t meet those qualifications but don’t want to go it alone, there are several companies that are happy to help you for a fee online. One of the biggest, TurboTax, is good for more complicated returns and walks users through complications such as income earned from contract jobs or investments. The same is true of H&R Block, another popular online filing service. Fees for H&R Block start at $19.95 for federal taxes; TurboTax’s is free for federal, but state taxes cost $39.95 per state. If you have more complicated taxes, you can sign on to the company’s $49.95 Federal service. Both services also have some mobile apps to answer some of your tax questions.

For really simple files, try a program like TaxAct Online or TaxSlayers, which are also a part of the IRS’ free file program. These are good for simpler taxes and have cheaper fees — the deluxe edition of TaxAct Online is just $17.95 and the premium edition of TaxSlayer is $19.95 — but they don’t handle complicated returns quite as well.

HighGearMedia.com also reminds us to drive carefully on Tax Day:

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tax day is dangerous for drivers, with 6 percent more traffic fatalities than on other days. The study was led by Dr. Donald Redelmeier — which is tad ironic, since he’s based at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation and doesn’t pay U.S. taxes.

Redelmeier and his team looked at traffic-related fatalities on tax days from 1980 to 2009, then compared those numbers to fatality stats a week before and a week after tax days. They found that there were an average of 213 U.S. traffic fatalities on "normal" days, but 226 on tax days — a statistically significant increase of 13.

Why the jump? Redelmeier doubts that the increase of fatalities on tax day is related to cars frantically circling post offices. If that were the problem, he should’ve seen the numbers slip downward over time, due to the increasingly common practice of e-filing. But that’s not been the case.

Researchers now theorize that the generalized stress of tax day is the underlying problem, not the specific act of filing taxes. Yes, there’ll be some frantic drivers rushing to mailboxes today, but even those who drive safely may be a bit distracted, thinking about the debt they owe Uncle Sam.

It might seem that Redelmeier’s study blames the IRS for the problem and argues for an end to tax day (and presumably taxes). However, in the L.A. Times, he says that’s not the case. After all, without tax dollars, emergency services would suffer, and there'd likely be even more fatalities on the roads than there are now.

All we know for sure is: as long as there’s a tax deadline, there’s a good chance we'll continue to see an uptick in traffic fatalities on tax day. No two ways about it.

SECTION: {section=business, subsection=economy}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=business, subsection=economy}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Most Read Business