Extra days granted for tax returns

If you usually wait until the last minute to do your taxes, you can thank Abraham Lincoln for giving you three extra days to file this year.

The tax deadline is Monday, April 18, instead of the regular April 15.

Why the extra days?

Washington, D.C., celebrates Emancipation Day on April 15. In the district, the day is treated as a federal holiday, meaning the IRS and other government agencies will be closed.

Since IRS officials aren’t working that day, there’s no one around to process returns until the next work day, which is Monday, April 18.

Incidentally, Emancipation Day marks the day President Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which actually took place on April 16, 1862.

The act freed more than 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia (http://bit.ly/1Qz896n).

Since the local holiday falls on a Saturday this year, it is celebrated on Friday.

So, procrastinators have an extra three days to, well, procrastinate on doing their taxes.

However, thanks to the Internet, tax day procrastination has been rendered virtually stress free.

Instead of scrambling to find paper tax forms, fill them out and run to the post office to get it all in the mail before the stroke of midnight on tax day, you can use the Internet to do your filing from the comfort of your home computer.

In fact, online tax preparation has become so easy that one need only type in information and numbers — the online program does all the number crunching and puts everything where it needs to be on the 1040 form.

And you were able to do it all while sitting around in your underwear or fancy clothes or whatever you choose to wear while doing your taxes — I don’t really want to know.

Online tax services have become quite competitive in recent years.

Depending on your income bracket and the complexity of your tax situation, it’s possible you can do your federal taxes for free online. In some instances, you can also file your state tax return for free.

To check out free opportunities, go to the “Free File” page at the IRS website (www.1.usa.gov/XHmAj1). There, you’ll learn what income levels qualify for free federal returns and what requirements you need to meet in order to qualify for free state tax returns.

There are more than a dozen online tax services you can choose from to file free returns.

If you don’t qualify for free filing, you can choose from an assortment of really good online tax services. Nearly all of them offer the same ease of use and speed. The real differences are in the prices for the services.

The top services include TaxACT (www.taxact.com), TurboTax (www.turbotax.intuit.com), H&R Block (www.hrblock.com), e-file (www.efile.com) and TaxSlayer (www.taxslayer.com), among others.

Do a search on “best tax return services” and you’ll get many others from which to choose.

Pricing ranges from nothing to about $80, depending on your tax needs. States returns range from nothing to about $30.

Most people should be able to do their federal and state taxes for around $25 to $40.

If you have a federal tax question, you can visit the IRS Web site and find answers to common tax questions (www.1.usa.gov/1UG4SHF).

In North Dakota, you might be able to file your state tax return for free, provided you meet certain requirements. The details are available at www.nd.gov/tax/.

If you file your taxes online, opt for direct deposit into your bank account — you’ll get your refund faster. Make sure you have a check or savings deposit slip handy so you can provide the appropriate bank numbers on your return. If you have a question on finding the right numbers, contact your bank.

Keith Darnay is the Tribune’s online manager and has worked in the online world for more than two decades. His site is at www.darnay.com.

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