Here's a little secret for all you procrastinators on Tax Day: The Internal Revenue Service doesn't like to talk about it, but as long as you don't owe any additional taxes, there is no penalty for filing a few days late.
Here’s a little secret for all you procrastinators on Tax Day: The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t like to talk about it, but as long as you don’t owe any additional taxes, there is no penalty for filing a few days late.
The late filing penalty is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month – or part of a month – a return is late. That can add up quickly if you owe additional taxes. But what if the unpaid taxes are zero? Five percent of zero is … zero!
However, if you wait more than three years to file, you forfeit your refund. So maybe it’s better to file by Monday, after all. Besides, if you’re getting a refund, why wait?
The IRS got a late start on tax season this year, thanks to a last-minute tax law passed by Congress on Jan. 1. But the deadline for filing returns didn’t change, so if you owe money, it’s time to settle up with the government.
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In all, the IRS expects to process 149 million returns from individuals this year, including returns from people who file for 6-month extensions. About a quarter of returns are usually filed in the last three weeks before Tax Day. This year the IRS received more than 10 million electronically filed returns from Friday through Sunday.
A look at this year’s filing season, through April 5:
- Returns filed so far: 96.6 million.
- Share of taxpayers getting a refund: 81 percent.
- Total amount of refunds issued so far: $214 billion.
- Average refund: $2,755.
- Average refund in 2012: $2,794.
- The rise of computers: 89 percent of returns have been filed electronically.
- Clinging to the past: That leaves 11 percent still filing paper returns.
- These people are getting a refund: 29 percent of Americans in a Pew Research Center poll said they like doing their taxes.
- These people are getting a big refund: 5 percent said they love doing their taxes.
- These people are not getting a refund: 26 percent said they hate doing their taxes.
- As of March 9, the IRS detected 220,821 fraudulent returns.
- Number of fraudulent returns involving identity theft: 85,385.
- Amount of fraudulent refunds stopped by the IRS: $1.8 billion.
- Ever wonder why tax laws are so complicated? Number of lobbyists registered to lobby Congress on taxes: 6,503.
- Number of organizations that pay lobbyists to lobby Congress on taxes: 2,221.
- Value of tax breaks enjoyed by corporations in 2011, as measured by the Government Accountability Office: $181 billion.
- Amount of corporate income tax revenue collected in 2011: $181 billion.
Sources: IRS; Pew Research Center; Treasury inspector general for tax administration; Sunlight Foundation.
Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap