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Last-minute tax tips

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Many Americans will be spending this weekend scrambling to get their taxes done, searching through stacks of paper for W-2s, 1099s and deductions.

If you're one of them, you're not alone. The Internal Revenue Service expects to get about 35 million returns between now and April 15, and tax experts have some last-minute tips to make sure you're square with Uncle Sam and what to do if you can't make the deadline.

The clock is ticking to the tax deadline.

"For you procrastinators out there who haven't finished your return, you either have to finish it or you can extend," said certified public accountant Rick Wolfish. 

If you can get it done by April 15 that's the best way to go, says Wolfish. But if you can't, the government will automatically grant you a six-month extension if you ask for it.

"But an extension is only an extension of filing the forms, it's not an extension for paying your taxes. So, you still have to pay your taxes Tuesday even if you extend, which means it's almost as complicated to do an extension as it is to file your returns," said Wolfish.

Say you're missing paperwork or need more time, it's an option, but if you don't have the money to pay what you owe that's a different story.

"Still file by April 15. Now, I know that sounds counterintuitive to file a return with tax due and not pay the tax," said Wolfish.

Wolfish says this because if you file the return and can't pay, the penalty becomes half of 1 percent monthly. But if you don't file Tuesday that penalty jumps to 5 percent, 10 times higher.

"IRS will work with you to work out an installment agreement," said Wolfish.

On the other hand, if the government owes you money, there's no penalty for filing an extension. 

Also due April 15 is Vermont's homestead declaration. That's the form that declares your home as a primary or secondary residence.

"You have to file this form every single year," said Wolfish.

If you don't you risk paying the higher property tax rate and could miss out on up to $8,000 in savings. Send it in and our expert says if you have to make changes later, you can.

"Filing and amending is acceptable, not filing is not acceptable," said Wolfish. 

This year the IRS is warning people that the days of post offices staying open until midnight on Tax Day are gone. That's because they say more than 90 percent of people now file online. The Postal Service says if you are still mailing in a paper return it has to be postmarked by the last collection time April 15.

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