Time’s up! What tax procrastinators need to know about the filing deadline

How to get more time to file your tax return

You can get an extension to file your tax return but make your tax payment by the April due date. Here are instructions on how to get more time to file.
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You can get an extension to file your tax return but make your tax payment by the April due date. Here are instructions on how to get more time to file.

For the first time in several years, tax procrastinators don’t get an extra day or two beyond April 15 to file their income tax returns with the federal Internal Revenue Service or the state Franchise Tax Board.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, weekends and other circumstances bumped Tax Day beyond the typical dreaded April 15 deadline. Not so this year. Taxpayers can get extensions to file if they need more time, but as for any taxes that are owed – well, that check needs to be in the mail on Monday to avoid penalties or interest.

Unlike some prior years, the U.S. Post Office’s main office on E Street in downtown Fresno is not anticipating a last-minute rush of people lining the driveway to make sure their returns carry that all-important April 15 postmark, said Angie Johnson, a supervisor at the office.

“Our last pickup from the blue mailboxes is at 6:30 p.m.,” she said. “We’re not doing the street service this year where we closed E Street for people to drop off their returns.”

On Monday morning, there was a line of customers inside the post office, including a few who waited until Monday to mail their returns. But most were there for the usual reasons: to buy stamps, ship packages or pick up mail. “It hasn’t been that busy the last couple of years,” Johnson said, citing the increasing popularity of online filing of tax returns with the state and federal agencies.

At the United Way of Fresno and Madera Counties, VITA/Free Tax Preparation coordinator Ashley Ruiz was too busy helping qualified last-day customers with free tax-filing assistance to break away for comment.

Tax Day was expected to be pretty much business as usual at the IRS’s regional processing center on Butler Avenue in southeast Fresno.

For the 3,000 or so employees who work there on either a year-round or seasonal basis, there are only two more years before the federal government closes the massive 528,000-square-foot center and shifts tax-return processing to other centers across the country. The center opened in 1972, but the IRS announced in 2016 that it would discontinue work there after the 2021 tax season.

In need of more time?

The Internal Revenue Service has online tools, including its Form 4868, available for people who need an extension to file their tax returns. It also offers appointments for help at its Taxpayer Assistance Center in downtown Fresno at 2525 Capitol Street by calling ahead for an appointment to 844-545-5640.

California’s Franchise Tax Board has some tips to ensure you make it without getting fined.

Although any state taxes owed must be postmarked by April 15, if you need more time to file, Californians are granted an automatic extension to October 15 — and if you aren’t sure how much you might owe, you can check with the FTB’s online tax calculator.

Alternatively, you can use the board’s 3519 form to estimate your balance.

Once you know how much you owe, you can pay through the board’s online Web Pay system, making transfers directly from a bank account for free, or with credit or debit cards with a 2.3 percent service charge.

You’ll need to login or register for an online FTB account, where you can view documents, balances, payment histories and field questions to representatives.

FTB offers a live chat service that can be used to clarify information and get technical help. The live chat is available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, excluding holidays.

The tax board also recommends using CalFile, a free service available to 6.4 million taxpayers that can be used to file your taxes in about a half hour. Refunds can be received through the system via direct deposit.

Low-to-moderate income taxpayers can take advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program through April 15, which provides free tax preparation help to full-time residents and has special services available for disabled or non-English speakers.

The state’s Tax Counseling for the Elderly program also provides assistance to taxpayers 60 years or older who have limited incomes.

Approximately 1.7 million Californians are eligible for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program, CalEITC, which may increase the amount of refunds for low-income taxpayers.

FTB estimates that those earning less than $24,950 anually may qualify for a CalEITC tax credit of $2,879. The IRS also provides a federal Earned Income Tax Credit program that may save taxpayers who earn $54,883 or less per year as much as $6,431.

If you’ve filed and your payment seems daunting, FTB offers payment plans to allow for monthly installments. Eligible taxpayers generally owe less than $25,000 and are able to pay off the balance within five years.

Taxpayers who are already engaged in a payment plan or are under a legal order to withhold are not eligible.

Or, if you’ve already filed your taxes and you know you’ll be getting money back, you can check the status of your refund online. The FTB estimates it will take up to two weeks to process online filings and up to four weeks for paper filings.

The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report for the state Franchise Tax Board information.