"Tax season is not over with and there are still a lot of people who need to file," noted Kay Cain, owner of H&R Block in Sikeston. "They are procrastinating which means it will be a heavy end."
Cain said on the national level approximately 45 percent of taxpayers have yet to file, which is a high number of taxes left to prepare, she pointed out.
"Probably 90 percent of people who have refunds have already filed," said Phil Cluck, owner of Fax Tax in Sikeston. "Most of those file in January and February, and generally the people who owe wait to file."
The Internal Revenue Service said last week that electronic filing continues its solid growth, with early tax returns showing e-filing running more than 9 percent ahead of last year's pace. Overall, the number of tax returns has increased 2.8 percent compared to last year.
Cluck said almost 100 percent of the tax preparations he does are filed electronically.
"When we e-file a tax return, we know right then if it's an accepted tax return and that there are no problems and no mistakes," Cluck explained. "If you mail a return, you may find out four or six weeks later that you wrote something wrong or forgot a signature. Then it takes another four-six weeks to send it back in. E-filing is mistake-proof, plus it's speedy."
To get a refund faster, e-file early and use direct deposit, agreed Annette FitzGerald, consumer and family economics specialist, University of Missouri Outreach and Extension, in a recent statement. Not only do they avoid the last-minute rush, early filers also get a faster refund, she said.
"Taxpayers will get a refund in as little as 10 to 15 days if they file electronically. E-filing also catches math problems and provides confirmation that the return has been received," said FitzGerald.
The IRS Free File program also has shown growth, the IRS reports. So far, the IRS has received more than 1.9 million returns through Free File, an increase of more than 24 percent from last year, when the program was introduced.
Free File is a public-private partnership between the IRS and a consortium of tax software companies that offer free e-file services to eligible taxpayers. Free File, which is available only through IRS.gov, gives taxpayers free access to the benefits of online tax preparation and e-filing.
One way to ensure filing is done efficiently is to get your records in order, FitzGerald recommended.
"Make sure you have all the records you need, including W-2s and 1099s and any other documentation of income or receipts for expenses that are deductible," FitzGerald said.
People should also be aware of all the tax credits available to them, Cluck noted.
"Many people do their own taxes, and they don't realize they qualify for them," Cluck said about the credits. "They can save people thousands of dollars."
A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed, according to the IRS. Some credits are refundable -- taxes could be reduced to the point that a taxpayer would receive a refund rather than owing any taxes.
Some of the credits taxpayers could be eligible to claim include education credits, child tax credits, credit for the elderly and disabled, child and dependent care credit, adoption credit and retirement savings contribution credits. "The IRS recently made a statement it owes taxpayers millions of dollars, and it's because of these credits," Cluck pointed out.
It is also important to take time when filling out a tax return to avoid costly mistakes, FitzGerald recommended. Double-check math and Social Security numbers, which are among the most common errors on tax returns, she said.
"The quicker you get started on it and get it done and get it over with, the better," Cluck said. "Just make sure you're getting your taxes done by someone qualified and if you have questions, call a qualified tax professional."
For more information on tax filing, visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov, or call toll free 1-800-829-1040 for assistance with your tax return.