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Paying Taxes on Time to Avoid Penalties

April 15 is the deadline for filing state and federal individual income tax returns. An extension to file your tax return is not an extension to pay your taxes. Taxes are due on April 15, and the IRS begins charging interest and penalties on your unpaid taxes on April 16. For this reason, paying some of your taxes on April 15 is better than paying nothing at all. The more you pay, the less your tax debt will grow because of interest and penalties.

File your tax return on time, or file IRS Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension to File,” which gives you until August 15 to get your return to the IRS. You can download the extension request form from the IRS, order it by calling 800-829-3767, or pick it up at your local IRS office.

If you don’t have the money to pay the IRS, you have options. These options can be costly. It’s a good idea to consult with a CPA or financial advisor about whether any of these options is right for you. That person may suggest that you will be better off asking the IRS to let you pay what you owe in installments or to let you settle your debt for less through an Offer in Compromise.

  • Pay with plastic. You have to pay a convenience fee of 2.49 percent on the amount that you charge to pay your IRS bill. And, of course, if you don’t pay the full amount of your tax debt when you receive your account statement, you pay interest to the credit card company.

    You can’t pay your taxes with a credit card, then declare bankruptcy, and make the debt disappear. Tax bills are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

  • Use a credit card convenience check. This option is relatively expensive because you probably have to pay a fee to the credit card company for the privilege of using the convenience check. Plus, if you can’t pay off the amount of the check right away, interest accrues.

  • Borrow against your home equity. The good news is that the interest you pay on the borrowed money is probably tax deductible. The bad news is that if you can’t repay the borrowed money, you may lose your home.

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