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Tax Advice: Waiting For Your Refund? Need An Extension Of Time To File?

The end of tax season is upon us; at least for most Americans.  Others are still pulling together those last minute receipts and trying to make the April 15th filing deadline.  Today, I want to address some of the questions we have been receiving at Christian Money as the filing deadline draws near.

1.  How Can I Find Out The Status Of My Tax Refund?

The IRS has set up a special web page for taxpayers to track the status of their refund.  The service is aptly called, Where’s My Refund.

The following information from your tax return will be required:

  • Social Security Number (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
  • Filing Status
  • The exact whole dollar amount of your refund

You should be able to determine the status of your refund within about 5 minutes using this service.  For those uncomfortable with the prospect of putting this information online, the old Refund Hotline (800) 829-1954 Automated service is available 24/7.

2.  If I Am Not Ready To File, What Can I Do?

Without even providing a reason, all taxpayers are provided an automatic extension of as much as six months to file their return.  Simply complete the IRS form 4868 automatic extension of time to file.  This extends the filing deadline to October 15 but does not provide additional time to pay taxes owed for 2009.  Along with Form 4868, you should also mail payment for the estimated taxes owed for 2009.

3.  I Owe Taxes That I Can Not Pay

Even if you are unable to pay your tax liability, you should still file your tax return.  There are separate penalties for failing to file that will be added to any penalties and interest you incur for not paying your taxes on time.  If you can not pay, the best option is to complete Form 9465 and request a payment plan from the IRS.  You may be able to arrange to pay your tax through installments over several months or even years, depending on your circumstances.

4.  What Is The Best Use Of My Tax Refund? 

I would consider using your tax refund for any of the following:

  • Increasing or creating an emergency fund
  • Paying down debts
  • Investing in education that will provide you with opportunities to earn more money (can I add a shameless plug here for my Christian Online Business training).

One thing to be especially careful of this year is paying down a credit card balance and expecting that credit line to remain available to you for future use.  Don’t be surprised if your credit line is reduced by the amount of your payment.  This is why I strongly discourage relying on credit cards for emergencies.  In this economic environment, that is a risky gamble.

Common Mistakes (especially if you are in a hurry)

Many times it is not a complicated tax issue that throws a wrench into your tax return being processed quickly by the IRS, but it is something very simple.  The most common mistakes made by taxpayers include not remembering to sign and date the return or listing their Social Security number incorrectly (or that of a dependent). It also makes good sense to take a few extra minutes to double check your math before dropping your return in the mail. 

Getting Credit For Your Payment

For those sending in a payment the check should be payable to "United States Treasury" and should include your name, address, SSN, telephone number, tax year and form number on the check or money order. If you file electronically, you can file and pay in a single step by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal. Whether you file a paper return or file electronically, you can pay by phone or online using a credit or debit card. Visit IRS.Gov for more information on payment options.

If you have any last minute tax questions, please use the comment box below to post them.

Helping you make the most of God’s money!

James L. Paris
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