I downloaded TaxAct today, intending to submit an extension of time to
file. If you've ever filed for an extension before, you know that you
still have to submit your estimated tax liability with your extension,
and for those of us with moderately simple taxes, it means you end up
really doing the whole thing in order to arrive at an estimate.
Plus you also have to check that you don't owe any taxes, since there
is no extension available for payment -- only for filing. A couple
years ago I got bit by that important distinction on my state taxes.
New Jersey doesn't require filing of a state extension, since the
federal extension is accepted by the state as the only paperwork
needed. I didn't owe any federal taxes so I didn't need to file an
extension for my federal return, even though I was filing late -- a
little-known rule, but it's true. Following so far? No federal
extension needed, so none filed.
When I did calculate my return, it turns out that we DID owe state
taxes! So we got a federal refund and were not penalized for filing
late (I told you that little rule was true). But the state wanted
$400+ and they wanted their late fees. What a waste of money.
So now I NEVER skip the extension paperwork even when I'm "sure" no
taxes are owed.
As a result of filing my taxes today, I found the first piece of
evidence that hints at a need for professional tax planning:
disallowed deductions. To avoid that situation next year, and to flee
from the Alternative Minimum Tax that's creeping up on us, I need more
guidance than software can give.