Thursday, January 26, 2012


Q. I’m an independent contractor using 1099s. I have one w-2 for a small amount from 2010. I missed the tax deadline and did not file an extension. What kind of advice can you give me? I live in CA but need some general direction.

A. File. That’s my advice in a nutshell.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see in my practice is giving up early. After a mistake or a missed deadline, many taxpayers get a bit overwhelmed and put their head in the sand – or they figure that since they’ve already messed up, they’ll wait and fix it later. Don’t fall into that trap.

Keep in mind that penalties are based on the passage of time. If you fail to file on time, you can be subject to a penalty of 5% of the amount of unpaid taxes for each month (or part of a month) that your tax return is late, not to exceed 25% of your unpaid taxes. If you also fail to pay, you can be subject to a penalty of ½ of 1% (or .005%) of the amount of your taxes due for each month or part of a month after April 15 that the taxes are not paid, also not to exceed 25% of your taxes. So the longer you wait to fix the problem, the more that it’s going to cost you. And don’t forget about interest, which will be charged on top of penalties.

Also keep in mind that the IRS is much happier when you come to them, as opposed to the IRS coming to you. If forms 1099 (or other forms) have been filed on your behalf by the issuer, the IRS knows that you exist. They’re going to be waiting to hear from you.

Filing your taxes late isn’t the end of the world. It’s fixable. But the faster you fix it, the better.