Skip to main content

Haven’t filed your 2017 income tax return yet? Beware of these pitfalls





The federal income tax filing deadline is slightly later than usual this year — April 17 — but it’s now nearly upon us. So, if you haven’t filed your individual return yet, you may be thinking about an extension. Or you may just be concerned about meeting the deadline in the eyes of the IRS. Whatever you do, don’t get tripped up by one of these potential pitfalls.

Filing for an extension

Filing for an extension allows you to delay filing your return until the applicable extension deadline, which for 2017 individual tax returns is October 15, 2018.

While filing for an extension can provide relief from April 17 deadline stress and avoid failure-to-file penalties, there are some possible pitfalls:


  • If you expect to owe tax, to avoid potential interest and penalties you still must (with a few exceptions) pay any tax due by April 17.



  • If you expect a refund, remember that you’re simply extending the amount of time your money is in the government’s pockets rather than your own. (If you’re owed a refund and file late, you won’t be charged a failure-to-file penalty. However, filing for an extension may still be a good idea.)


Meeting the April 17 deadline

The IRS considers a paper return that’s due April 17 to be timely filed if it’s postmarked by midnight. Sounds straightforward, but here’s a potential pitfall: Let’s say you mail your return with a payment on April 17, but the envelope gets lost. You don’t figure this out until a couple of months later when you notice that the check still hasn’t cleared. You then refile and send a new check. Despite your efforts to timely file and pay, you can still be hit with both failure-to-file and failure-to-pay penalties.

To avoid this risk, use certified or registered mail or one of the private delivery services designated by the IRS to comply with the timely filing rule, such as:


  • DHL Express 9:00, Express 10:30, Express 12:00 or Express Envelope



  • FedEx First Overnight, Priority Overnight, Standard Overnight or 2Day, or



  • UPS Next Day Air Early A.M., Next Day Air, Next Day Air Saver, 2nd Day Air A.M. or 2nd Day Air.


Beware: If you use an unauthorized delivery service, your return isn’t “filed” until the IRS receives it. See IRS.gov for a complete list of authorized services.

Avoiding interest and penalties

Despite the potential pitfalls, filing for an extension can be tax-smart if you’re missing critical documents or you face unexpected life events that prevent you from devoting sufficient time to your return right now. We can help you estimate whether you owe tax and how much you should pay by April 17. Please contact us if you need help or have questions about avoiding interest and penalties.  

© 2018

Popular posts from this blog

Is now the time to start offering paid parental leave?

Paid parental leave isn’t required under federal law. This means the United States is among only a few developed nations without a mandate for employers to offer compensated time off to mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child. (Some states do have laws on the books.) Prevailing public opinion and the recent moves of some large employers, however, indicate a rising interest in this benefit.

For example, 82% of respondents to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll said mothers should receive paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. (Sixty-nine percent said the same of fathers.) Meanwhile, mega-employer Walmart just launched an expanded parental leave policy this year. It features 10 paid weeks off for birth mothers and six weeks for other new parents, applicable to both hourly and salaried workers.

Potential advantages for employers

Is now the time for your organization to offer paid parental leave? Although it helps employees, of course, parental leave can al…

Putting your child on your business’s payroll for the summer may make more tax sense than ever

If you own a business and have a child in high school or college, hiring him or her for the summer can provide a multitude of benefits, including tax savings. And hiring can make more sense than ever due to changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

How it works

By shifting some of your business earnings to a child as wages for services performed, you can turn some of your high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income. For your business to deduct the wages as a business expense, the work done must be legitimate and the child’s wages must be reasonable.

Here’s an example: A sole proprietor is in the 37% tax bracket. He hires his 20-year-old daughter, who’s majoring in marketing, to work as a marketing coordinator full-time during the summer. She earns $12,000 and doesn’t have any other earnings.

The father saves $4,440 (37% of $12,000) in income taxes at no tax cost to his daughter, who can use her $12,000 standard deduction (for 2018) to completely shelter her earnings. This …