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5 Essential Tips for Last-Minute Tax Filers

04/28/2015 07:38 EDT | Updated 06/28/2015 05:59 EDT
Dean Mitchell via Getty Images

Time and again, you've told yourself, "I'll get to it tomorrow," and still the days wore on. Now, the clock ticks audibly: you don't have to turn in an assignment to a teacher, get a report to an impatient boss, or throw up a game winning shot: nope, it's tax time and the deadline is just days away.

Your month of tax procrastination may be stressing you out, but don't worry. The following tips will get you through the final days:

1. A Little Organization Goes a Long Way

Take a few minutes to gather your income tax slips before sitting down to do your return. I find this a fun way of looking back on my year. Remember that not all tax slips arrive in the mail so check your email and online service accounts too. The most common tax slips are T4 (employment income), T5 (investment income), T4A (pension income) and T2202A (tuition, education and textbook amounts).

2. Tech Your Taxes

There's no time to fumble around with a pencil and a piece of parchment, especially considering the range of tax software out there. Better yet, some software, like TurboTax, offers expert support along the way, so you can file quickly and efficiently (which is important, given the date) without overlooking any of the smaller details. Best of all, you don't have to worry about rushing out to an accountant or tax store because software is available when you are.

3. Take Credit Where Credit's Due

Just because you're in a rush doesn't mean you can't maximize your return. Make sure you claim everything you're eligible for, like charitable donations, medical expenses, transit passes, child care expenses (including camps, caregivers and education institutions and boarding schools when child care/lodging is involved), and anything else that's available. All of this information is easily accessible online or called out to you when you file online, and shouldn't slow you down. Also, expend the effort to find any pertinent receipts.

4. Beat the Buzzer

Once you have followed the above steps, you're ready to submit -- so do it! By filing late or failing to file, you will incur a range of financial penalties. Why just throw your money away?

5. Think About What's to Come

Once you finish your taxes, it's a good idea to stop and think about what you might have done better this tax season and how you can simplify the process next year. Need some ideas? Try keeping all of your receipts and transit passes in one folder, and using an app, like Evernote, to track your investment changes throughout the year. The earlier you start preparing, the easier next year's tax season will be.

If you follow the above tips -- and stay calm, breathe deep, and listen to a bit of classical music on repeat -- you should get through last-minute filing and future tax returns unscathed. Now get going!

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