Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 15, 2014

April 15 not much of a deadline for most taxpayers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The calendar shows April 15, and you haven't even started on your federal tax return? Chances are, you don't need to fret.

If you're due a refund — and about three-fourths of filers get refunds — April 15 isn't much of a deadline at all.

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't like to talk about it, but penalties for filing late federal tax returns apply only to people who owe money. The penalty is a percentage of what you owe. If you owe nothing, 5 percent of nothing is ...nothing!

But it doesn't make much sense to file late. If you are owed a refund, why wouldn't you want it as soon as possible? And if you have unpaid taxes, the late fees add up quickly.

"Most people with refunds are filing early in January, February and March because they'd like the refund early," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. "So we don't see an incentive and we don't see much experience of people waiting later for us to keep the money longer."

The failure-to-file penalty is generally 5 percent of your unpaid tax bill for every month, or part of a month, you are late. It kicks in on April 16. In general, the maximum penalty is 25 percent of your original tax bill.

There also is a penalty for failing to pay your tax bill, separate from the penalty for failing to file at all, but it's much smaller. That's because the IRS wants you to file a return even if you don't have enough money to pay what you owe.

The failure-to-pay penalty is 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes for every month, or part of a month, you don't pay.

About 12 million taxpayers are expected to request extensions, giving them an additional six month to file their returns, according to the IRS. However, these taxpayers still must pay at least 90 percent of their tax bill by Tuesday to avoid the failure-to-pay penalty.

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