It’s Tax Day: What to know if you file late

SEATTLE — It’s Tax Day — April 15 — the day many Americans love to hate as the deadline approaches to file your federal Income taxes and maybe, pay up. Most people will have finished their taxes by the deadline, but the IRS plans to come down hard on people who are not timely with their filing.

Washington is among the 12 states trying out a new free filing tool this year.

Some state and local officials from the King County area were up bright and early at El Centro De La Raza in Seattle Monday morning to highlight the new system that is available to Washingtonians to file online directly with the IRS. Even Gov. Jay Inslee was there to tout the system.

Washington state residents may not pay state income tax, but many will owe the IRS and have to file federal returns Monday.

If you don’t, the IRS could issue a 5% penalty for each month you’re late. If you get an extension, you’ll have until Oct. 15 to file.

But tax expert Mark Steber, with the tax firm Jackson Hewitt, stresses an extension does not absolve you from paying or facing penalties.

“There are two that you’re worried about here at the last minute. The failure to file and the failure to pay. So if you’re saying I owe money but I’m just not getting around to it, at least file the extension and don’t pay and you’ll at least stop the failure to file penalty that won’t be applicable. You’ll still have a failure to pay if you don’t pay up, and you may have interest on top of that, but to do nothing is sort of the worst case scenario,” said Steber.

Steber says penalties for failing to file and/or pay can add up to more than you owe in taxes. The failure to pay penalty and failure to file penalty are 25% of the balance you owe. This year, the IRS rolled out a new free online tool in 12 states including Washington, called “Direct File” to allow people to file online.

With other platforms to file online, many tax experts say there are no more excuses when it comes to filing. The United Way of King County’s free tax program offers services to residents who make less than $80,000 a year. The program runs until Sunday, Apr. 21, well beyond Monday’s deadline, and there’s a few reasons why, according to Ryan McFerran, the program manager for tax credits and filing program at the United Way of King County.

“Only if you expect to owe on your taxes do you have to file by the 15th. Otherwise, if you’re expecting a refund you can file afterwards … we help people get extensions. Even if you are filing an extension there is still a requirement that you pay your tax bill if you are expecting to have one, so what we do, is we do a tax return for people to estimate their tax liability and then file the extension for them,” said McFerran.