Procrastinating taxpayers will not meet April 15 with the same sense of urgency as most years.
This year, the day that bedevils so many taxpayers falls on Saturday, pushing the tax return filing deadline to Monday, said David Crews, an independent Martinez certified public accountant.
Many people put filing off to the last minute because "very few people like to file and pay taxes," he said.
Still, time is running out, and with a crunch on time, tax preparation officials say mistakes can happen.
"Doing it by hand has almost gone away," Crews said. He recommended taxpayers use programs such as Turbo Tax, which can catch mistakes, or take their taxes to an experienced tax professional.
In recent years, Crews said, more of his clients are falling under the domain of the Alternative Minimum Tax, something not easily determined without aid.
That tax was designed more than 30 years ago to plug loopholes in the tax code that many wealthy people used to minimize their taxes.
Accountants generally look for Alternative Minimum Tax eligibility at $300,000 income; however, interest payments, state income tax returns and other investments apply to a taxpayer's income level and might snare many unsuspecting taxpayers, he said.
Some taxpayers also run into trouble when they try to file an extension, Crews said. Penalties and interest charges may still apply even with an extension.
"Just because you file an extension that just gives you time to file; that does not give you time to pay," he said.
When consulting an accountant, be organized and bring all applicable tax forms, W-2s and have the Social Security numbers of all dependents, Crews said.
For homeowners, another deadline is quickly approaching. Columbia County homeowners seeking a homestead exemption will need to act a little quicker than most years, said Kay Allen, Columbia County's tax commissioner. The deadline to apply is Thursday, because the office will be closed Friday and Saturday for the Easter holiday, she said.
Owners of new property should bring a copy of their warranty deed, and all taxpayers should have a driver's license handy, Allen said. Property taxpayers 62 and older as of Jan. 1 must have a copy of their state and federal income tax returns to determine if they are eligible for certain area property tax exemptions, Allen said.
The standard area exemption should save taxpayers $250, she said. However homeowners 62 and older may qualify for a greater exemption if their pension, retirement fund and Social Security income does not exceed $15,000.
Property taxpayers 70 and older as of Jan. 1 may qualify to be exempt from 80 percent of area school taxes, Allen said. Beginning next year, those 70 and older will be exempt from all area school taxes, she said.
To apply for any of these exemptions, the property must be the taxpayer's permanent residence since before Jan. 1.
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