By Johnny Jackson
Federal officials anticipate as much as a quarter of all taxpayers in the Southern Crescent area, and the rest of the state, will file their federal tax returns during the final week of filing season.
That amounts to an estimated one million returns, out of the 4.1 million to be filed by Georgians this year.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also projects more than 275,000 Georgians will request an extension, even with the extended filing deadline of April 18.
"It's a real possibility that some people might file on the weekend before the April 18th deadline," said IRS Spokesman Mark Green. "[However,] taxpayers who need extra time to file their federal returns this year can file the Form 4868 request for an automatic extension through IRS Free File."
Green said -- while the extension gives taxpayers an additional six months, until Oct. 17, to file their tax return -- it is not an extension of time to pay.
Taxpayers can file the request for an extension with traditional Free File, or Free File Fillable Forms, said Green, who added that preparing and submitting Free File Form 4868 is free to everyone.
The tax-filing season has progressed smoothly, so far, noted the IRS spokesman.
"Georgians are e-filing in record numbers this year, up 8.7 percent," Green said. "Thus far, we have received over 2.6 million e-file returns out of the estimated 4.1 million [Georgia] tax returns [63.4 percent]."
Green acknowledge that many of those are coming from a younger generation of taxpayers. "About 90 percent of new taxpayers are going to be taking advantage of technology, and are going to e-file," he said. "A lot of these folks are younger, and they're more familiar with what's available out there."
Green said he encourages those who have not yet filed their tax returns, to e-file for its convenience, and to avoid filing late. He said, if a taxpayer is unable to pay the total balance due on his or her taxes owed, he or she should pay as much as possible and contact the IRS about an installment plan.
"Paying as much as you can when you file your return will help reduce interest and penalty charges," he said. "Even if you cannot pay the balance due, it is important to either, file a return, or request an extension to avoid the failure-to-file penalty.
"The late-filing penalty is 10 times greater than the late-payment penalty," he continued. "The late-filing penalty is 5 percent per month (up to 25 percent) of the tax due. The current interest rate is 4 percent."
Green said most forms and publications can be downloaded from the IRS web site, at www.irs.gov, under the "Forms and Publications" link. Many local libraries have forms, or a reproducible forms package as well.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Programs, which assist people who earn $49,000 or less, and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs, are available throughout the state to help low-, or limited-income individuals, and individuals, aged 60 and above, with their income tax return preparation and electronic filing.
To learn more, call 1-800-906-9887, or dial 211.