April 15: Ask almost any American adult about the significance of that day and they will tell you that is when their income tax is due. For 2014, the due date for filing all income taxes, April 15 falls on a TUESDAY. It may seem a long way off, but please don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your taxes, advises Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, who offers some advice for those who calculate their own tax returns.
“Preparing your taxes can be a difficult undertaking. Whether you use a computer tax preparation program, complete them by hand, or hire a tax professional, it is never too soon to start” Supervisor Venditto said. “The rules are often complicated, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which one is most applicable your situation. As the April 15th filing date approaches there are some basic guidelines everyone can follow to make life simpler.
“Begin by assembling all your necessary paperwork…dividend and interest statements, records of any quarterly tax payments you might have made and, of course, the W-2 form from your employer, or employers if you hold more than one job. Perhaps the most important piece of paper you can have is a copy of last year’s return. Review it to identify what your sources of income and deductions were. Then, jot down any change you made in 2013, such as cashing a savings bond or opening an I.R.A.”
Supervisor Venditto noted that when you fill out your income tax form, it is important to write the income amounts exactly as they appear on the statement because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and New York State Department of Taxation and Finance computers match up your numbers with the records they get from your employer. Failing to report income can lead to dire results, adding a significant penalty to the tax you owe on it.
With an increasing number of tax filers preparing their personal income tax forms through computer software and the Internet, neither the IRS nor the State Department of Taxation & Finance routinely mail paper tax form packets directly to individuals. “Both the IRS and State Web sites, www.irs.gov and  www.tax.ny.gov, respectively, have on-line fillable forms, downloadable forms and publications providing e-filers with links to qualified e-file tax professionals to prepare and file your returns, as well as links to software companies that offer over-the-counter or online software to prepare your own returns ” Supervisor Venditto said. “Additionally, individuals who meet certain income, age and other requirements are eligible for free access to tax preparation and filing software.”
For tax filers who do not have a computer, or prefer to do their taxes by hand, forms and publications can be obtained at most local post offices and libraries. If you would like federal publications and forms mailed to you, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 or 1-800-829-4059 if you are hearing impaired. For State forms, call 518-457-5431 or 518-485-5082 if you are hearing impaired.
Supervisor Venditto noted that 2014 will see the return of an electronic filing (e-file) mandate. Under this mandate, a taxpayer who does not use a tax return preparer, but prepares his or her income tax return using tax software must file that return electronically, providing that the software supports the electronic filing of the return and the computer on which is was prepared has broadband internet access. If a taxpayer has previously been subjected to this mandate since its inception in 2012, the taxpayer will once again electronically submit their return for the 2014 tax season. If a taxpayer files a traditional paper return without using software, then this mandate does not come into effect.
If you are having a problem completing your federal form, an extension of time up to six months is available. Just call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 (1-800-829-4059 if you are hearing impaired) and request form 4868. You can also get an extension of time to file your New York State tax return. Simply download form IT-370 from the website, or call 518-457-5431 (518-485-5082 if you are hearing impaired) to have the form mailed to you. Be aware that for both a federal and State extension, you will have to pay any tax you owe by April 15, or be subject to interest and late penalties, but you will get the extra time you need to prepare your tax return. If you’re preparing your own tax return, be sure to read IRS publication 17-Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals and New York State publication 80-General Income Tax Information for New York State Residents – For tax year 2013. Both documents contain important information that you should know before starting to prepare your returns.