When Americans Really File Their Taxes

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – If you haven’t yet filed your taxes this year, you’re in very good company.

Nearly half of Americans (41%) waited until the final four weeks of the tax season last year to file their 2009 returns, with 27% opting to file in the final two weeks before April 15, according to data provided to MainStreet by TurboTax. The number of people who waited until the homestretch to file this year is likely even higher.

“We’re seeing more and more people file their taxes in the final two weeks of the season,” said Bob Meighan, vice president of TurboTax.

In part, this can be attributed to the fact that the filing season was delayed for several weeks to account for changes in tax law, but according to Meighan, consumers are also submitting returns later because of online tax filing options. Though there have always been those who waited until the final minutes, new e-filing options have made it easier than ever for procrastinators to delay.

“Just a few years ago, people had to paper file, a process that required you to mail your returns off and get it certified,” Meighan said. “That all takes time.”

Online tax tools, on the other hand, expedite the process by helping users organize and fill out the necessary paperwork, not to mention the fact that the return is submitted to the government instantly via its e-file service. But while technology may drive some taxpayers to further delay submitting returns, it’s not the only reason.

According to Meighan, taxpayers tend to file more promptly when they know they will get a refund, but when taxpayers know they will owe money, they are more likely to delay and hold onto the money as long as possible.

Indeed, the TurboTax data, which is based on surveys of more than 5,000 TurboTax users, shows that more than a quarter of Americans file in the first four weeks of the season, right after they get their forms from work, presumably eager to snatch up their refunds. After this, there is a lag until the very end of the season when taxpayers grudgingly file their returns at the last minute.

Though it makes sense that a filer would put off the task longer if it means paying back money to the government, Meighan says consumers do have another option to let them file earlier.  Americans can note on their return that they don’t want the money they owe taken out of their bank accounts until the end of the tax season. In this way, they can hold onto their money longer while avoiding the risk of waiting until the last minute.

“People can get into trouble if they are late to file and don’t have all their documents together,” Meighan said. “They might overlook putting a document in, or they may not have enough time to properly review the return before submitting it.”

If an error creeps in, you could end up losing more time and money in the long run trying to correct it.

For more tips to prepare yourself for tax day this year, check out the MainStreet Tax Center.

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the BankingMyWay.com Credit Center.

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