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Tax Tips for Illinois Procrastinators

April 14, 2010

CHICAGO - Those who are procrastinating on their 2009 taxes are not alone. The IRS says that more than 51,000 Illinois residents who could have received a refund back in 2006 never filed. That's $55 million the federal government will hold onto for them only until April 15th of this year.

IRS spokeswoman Sue Hales says, whether you're filing for 2009 or a previous year, at this point it's best to e-file.

"It's faster. It's more accurate than a paper return and you're going to get your refund in about two weeks if you have the refund deposited directly into a bank account."

The IRS has prosecuted hundreds of illegal tax preparers, so Hales says to be suspicious if the filing fee is based on a percentage of a refund. And she says, many people don't have to pay for a tax preparer because they qualify to use the IRS "Free-File" online.

"For folks whose income in 2009 was $57,000 or less, they're eligible to prepare their tax return for free and e-file that federal tax return for free."

For anyone who owes money, but can't afford to pay, Hales says, the worst thing to do is not file.

"The penalty for filing late is ten times greater than the penalty for paying late."

Hales says the IRS charges five percent per month, up to 25 percent of the taxes owed for late filing, but only one-half a percent per month for paying late.

For those who owe and can't pay, Hales says, it's best to file now and set up an installment plan because penalties for late filing can really add up.

To find out if you qualify for free e-filing or to set up an installment plan, go to the IRS Web site at

The AARP also offers free tax counseling and assistance on the phone or online.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL