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Tips for filing taxes close to deadline

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Tuesday is the deadline for filing taxes, but if you've waited until the last minute, you are not alone. According to the IRS, a quarter of people in the United States waited until the last two weeks to file last year, but there are some tips you should know.

If you're unable to get those returns completed by Tuesday night, the first thing you should do is file an extension. The penalties for not filing a return or an extension on time can be steep, but the extension is to file your taxes, not to pay them.

Kathy Pickering, Executive Director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block said the best thing you can do is to pay what you can, when you can.

"The failure to file penalty is 10 times more than the failure to pay penalty," Pickering explained, "The best advice is pay what you can as soon as you can, and set up a payment plan to pay off the rest of it."

If you are due a refund, you will not be penalized for filing late, but you will not get your refund until you do file. You have three years to file to still get that refund.

Another topic to keep in mind, experts say tax season also means scam season.

Many people choose to file taxes electronically rather than mailing in paper tax returns and experts say there are some ways this is safer. Electronically-filed returns are encrypted to prevent access to data, and there is no risk of them getting lost in the mail. However, scammers also take advantage of people choosing to file online.

IRS impersonators use tax season as a way to trick people into giving them money. It could be an email or a phone call from someone pretending to be an IRS agent saying you owe money, but the IRS says it will never call or email you.

Floyd Hickerson with Heartland Tax in North Little Rock advises the safest way to file taxes is with a professional so there is no confusion or risk of getting scammed.

"It can get you in trouble. Always, of course, I promote tax professionals. You've got to go to somebody who does taxes," Hickerson said.

Some other tips you should know - the IRS will not threaten to send you to jail, they will not take a payment by gift card, and they will not demand that you pay right away.

If the IRS contacts you, it will be through a letter in the mail.

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