8 Ways to Avoid Playing Yourself This Tax Season

Tax return check (Photo: Cabania/Getty Images)

8 Ways to Avoid Playing Yourself This Tax Season

Cuffing season is over. But don't worry, you can still get claimed.

Published April 15, 2016

The presidential primary season is upon us and the empty promise to “lower taxes” from presidential hopefuls is ringing in the streets. Who wants to pay more in taxes? The answer to that question is always a resounding, “Not Me!” So when people float ideas like flat tax rates or even eliminating taxes and the IRS altogether, the plausibility of those ideas being implemented is often left to the side.

You would be more likely to run into 2Pac at the gas station then to have someone offer a plan that makes sense for everyone.

Still, the question remains: Is there a way to reduce our government’s main source of revenue and retain the quality of life we’re accustomed to? Until some egghead figures that out, we compiled a list of ways you can make paying taxes less painful.

  1. File an extension. Filing one is totally free and can be done online with Form 4868. Doing this gives you until October of this year to file your return. Keep in mind, an extension to file is not an extension to pay, but you're in luck! Due to the overlap of some holidays, tax returns are due on April 18 this year versus the customary April 15. Thanks to the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., you now have three extra days to procrastinate. If you're lucky enough to live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until April 19 to file. Make sure your brakes and horn work for that midnight dash to the post office, though. 
  2. Donate to charity. Find a cause you like and slide them a few coins. It’ll make you feel good inside and help lower your taxable income which may result in you owing less tax.
  3. Make estimated tax payments. If you're self-employed or don't plan on receiving a W-2 form, you may need to pay your taxes quarterly throughout the year. Form 1040-ES can help you with that. Remember, the goal is to avoid a huge tax bill and hopefully keep the IRS off your stoop.
  4. Use a tax professional. Your cousin that installs cable, has a tow truck and also does taxes for the low is super busy this time of year. So, unless they're also a CPA, it's worth a few extra dollars to use a professional.  
  5. Pay them! Look, death and taxes are life’s only guarantees. They’re definitely going to happen — and maybe even at the same time. So if you do owe, call the IRS and make arrangements. They're surprisingly understanding. Unless you run. Please don’t run.   
  6. Rapid refunds are dumb. First, they’re costly. Second, it's your damn money. It’s like paying someone else for a slice of pizza that came out of your fridge. It doesn't make sense unless it's their pizza. Also, if you happen to owe taxes or something goes wrong, you'll have to pay that money back (possibly with penalties and interest). If you file electronically and get direct deposit, you can get your dough back in as soon as one week. Stop paying for your own pizza already.
  7. File electronically. See above.
  8. You don’t have to get a refund. Yeah, yeah, yeah, sounds crazy right? All you have to do is make sure you're having enough tax withheld during the year to break even at tax time. That way you get the maximum benefit of your wages all year long. Your Instagram might be a little boring come spring, but you will be balling all year.

All forms and information mentioned above are also available at IRS.gov or you're local IRS walk-in office. 

(Photo: Cabania/Getty Images)

Written by R. Clinton


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