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Taxes

Still haven't filed your taxes? Here are important tips for tax-minute filers

There's no avoiding Tax Day. Here's how to file the right way.

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As Tax Day approaches, it's important not to rush through the filing process: Being accurate is as important as making the deadline.

Here are some helpful tips to guide you through the process quickly and hassle-free.

Last-minute tax tips

Gather your tax documents

Everyone's return will look different, but most filers will need one or more of these common tax documents:

Employers, loan servicers and others are typically required to send these forms by late January. If you haven't received a particular document yet, contact the appropriate office. (You may also be able to access the necessary form online.)

If you cannot get a W-2 by the filing deadline, you can use Form 4852, "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." But, according to the IRS, any refund will be delayed while the information is verified.

Physical copies of other documents, like the 1098, aren't required to file your return — just the information they include.

File electronically

E-filing is easier and faster than filling out a paper return. And if you're expecting a refund, you'll get it faster, too — especially if you set up direct deposit.

The right tax prep software can help speed the process along: Two top performers, TurboTax and H&R Block, have both free and paid tiers that address common tax situations.

TurboTax

On TurboTax's secure site
  • Cost

    Costs may vary depending on the plan selected - click "Learn More" for details

  • Free version

    TurboTax Free Edition. ~37% of taxpayers qualify. Form 1040 + limited credits only.

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Live support

    Available with some pricing and filing options

Click here for TurboTax offer details and disclosures. Terms apply.

H&R Block

On H&R Block's secure site
  • Cost

    Costs may vary depending on the plan selected (Free Online, Deluxe, Premium, or Self-Employed) - click "Learn More" for details

  • Free version

    Yes (for simple returns only)

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Live support

    Available with some pricing and filing options

Terms apply.

Unlike most free tax-prep offerings, Cash App Taxes lets you file both federal and state taxes at no cost.

Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax)

On Cash App's secure site
  • Cost

    $0 federal and state

  • Free version

    Yes

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Tax expert support

    No

Another free provider, FreeTaxUSA, accepts tax forms other no-cost options don't — including itemized deductions, income from investments and HSA contributions. There are also paid tiers with live chat, unlimited amendments and personalized advice from a tax pro.

FreeTaxUSA

On FreeTaxUSA's secure site
  • Cost

    $0 federal, $14.99 state

  • Mobile app

    Yes

  • Tax expert support

    Yes, costs extra

Terms apply.

If you have real estate investments, own a business or have other complex tax issues, you may need to buy an online tax-prep program.

IRS Direct File

If you meet the income requirements, you may be able to file your taxes for free through one of several government-backed programs.

Direct File is a pilot program that allows you to file a federal tax return online directly with the IRS. Currently, it's only available in Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

You must also be a W-2 employee, receive Social Security or unemployment insurance or have investment income of less than $1,500. You must also have a Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and a valid state ID or passport.

IRS Free File

IRS Free File is another no-cost online service for filers with an AGI of $79,000 or less. It's actually a partnership between the IRS and several top tax prep sites, including TaxSlayer and FreeTaxUSA. Filers can choose which to work with based on their income, age, location and filing needs — and some partners will file state returns for free, too.

Other free programs include Volunteer Income Tax Assistance for lower-income filers, Tax Counseling for the Elderly and MilTax, a software program for U.S. servicemembers, veterans and their families.

Check for mistakes

Don't let the ticking clock lead to mistakes that can cost you money or require you to refile. The IRS has several tips on checking for basic errors:

Check the Social Security numbers: The numbers or each person listed on your return should be accurate and legible, including any dependents.

Check your figures:
If you are filing a paper return, be sure you've figured out your tax bill or refund correctly. If you report less than the correct amount by over 10% or $2,000 (whichever is greater), a penalty may be assessed.

Check the tax tables: Your tax-prep software should do this automatically if you're e-filing. But if you're completing a paper return or using the IRS' Free File Fillable Forms, make sure you have the right figure for your filing status.

Sign your form: It might seem obvious, but if you leave your signature and date off a paper return, the IRS may return your form. Both spouses must sign if you're filing a joint return. If you paid a professional, they have to sign it, too, and enter their Preparer Tax Identification Number.

If you e-file, there is no physical signature: Filers verify the information by entering a PIN or your adjusted gross income for the tax year.

File for a tax extension

Ignoring your return is a bad idea: Interest and penalties accrue immediately after Tax Day and continue until your balance is paid in full. Eventually, the government could garnish your wages, place a lien on your property or even revoke your passport.

You can file an extension if you need more time to complete your return. You'll still have to pay any outstanding taxes by Tax Da, but you'll have more time to finish your forms.

There are three ways to file for an extension:

  • Pay all or part of the estimated tax due using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or a credit card or debit card. Indicate the payment is for an extension
  • File Form 4868 electronically using tax software or a tax professional.
  • File a paper Form 4868 and enclose payment of the estimated taxes due.

Once you have submitted Form 4868, you will have six months to complete your tax return.

FAQs

For most people, federal income tax returns are due on April 15, 2025, at midnight local time.

If you filed your federal return electronically and are due a refund, the IRS says you can generally expect it within 21 days. Enrolling in direct deposit will help you get your money faster, too. If there is an issue with your return or if you filed a paper return, it may take a month or longer.

The deadline to file a tax extension is also April 15, 2025. You will have six months to file your return, but you still must make an estimated payment by Tax Day.

Bottom line

Filing your taxes isn't fun, but it is important. With just days remaining, you need to organize your paperwork and choose the right tax preparation software or professional to help you make the April 15, 2025, deadline.

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Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every tax guide is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of tax software products. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics.

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