Tips to avoid stress at tax time

Filing your tax return doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are some stress-relieving tips to help.

1. Don’t procrastinate, resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. Rushing to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error.

2. Visit the IRS Web site. In 2009, more than 296 million visits were made to Make 1040 Central your first stop to learn the latest news and find answers to your questions.

3. File your return electronically. Last year, two out of three tax returns were filed electronically. Use e-file and direct deposit to get your refund in as few as 10 days. E-filed returns have a much lower error rate. Taxpayers receive a fast acknowledgement that the IRS received the return, a service not available to paper filers. You can e-file through your tax preparer or commercial software. Or, you can use Free File, a service offered by the IRS and private sector partners to prepare and e-file your federal return for free. Again, see for more information.

4. Don’t panic if you can’t pay. If you cannot pay the full amount of taxes you owe by the April 15 deadline, you should still file your return by the deadline and pay as much as you can to avoid penalties and interest. You should also contact the IRS to discuss your payment options at 1-800-829-1040. The agency may be able to provide some relief such as a short-term extension to pay, an installment agreement or an offer in compromise.

More than 75 percent of taxpayers eligible for an installment agreement can apply using the Web-based online payment agreement application available on To find out more about this simple and convenient process, type “online payment agreement” in the search box on the homepage.

5. Request an extension of time to file – but pay on time. If the April 15 clock runs out, you can get an automatic six-month extension of time to file until Oct. 15. However, this extension of time to file does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. If you have not paid at least 90 percent of the total tax due by the April deadline, you may also be subject to an estimated tax penalty. To obtain an extension, just file Form 4868. The easiest way to file a Form 4868 is through Free File at Form 4868 is also available at or you can call 800-829-3676 and have a paper form mailed to you.

Source: Internal Revenue Service