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Tips for last-minute filers

By Ben Tinker

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Whether you plan to have someone else prepare your taxes for you, do it online or the old-fashioned way, by hand, here are some tips for last-minute filers.

If you need a little more time, file for an extension by the 15th. This will give you an additional six months, until October 15th, to file your return. To get the extension, complete and file Form 48-68 either online or by mail. You can find it at irs.gov.

Whether you are filing now or getting an extension, make sure you take advantage of all the tax credits and deductions available for 2009, including the first-time homebuyer tax credit, the American opportunity credit for college students and the energy property credit for "greening" your home.

But remember, an extension is just for filing your return, not for paying any taxes you owe. You are still required to pay on time.

If you are worried about not being able to pay the IRS, it is still important to file your return on time to avoid a late filing penalty.

The late filing penalty is 5% per month and it adds up very quickly. It will end up costing you much more than the late payment penalty in the end.

Start by paying as much as you can with your return to help reduce interest and penalty charges.

Then you can request to pay the remainder in monthly installments. For that, submit Form 94-65 with your return and list the amount you propose to pay each month. The IRS will let you know if your request is accepted.

Keep in mind that there is a one-time $105 fee for entering into this agreement. The fee is reduced to $52 if you make your payments electronically.

If you think you can pay the amount you owe in full in 120 days, the IRS will waive that fee. Simply sign up for the online payment agreement. To top of page

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