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Still need tax help?

Deborah Alexander (Omaha World-Herald) -- First, you waited for the snow to melt. Then you waited for Groundhog Day, the first day of spring and daylight-saving time.

Now with a little more than a week remaining, you're still waiting.

You know who you are. You last-minute, down-to-the-wire income-tax filer.

But don't despair.

Because the April 15 tax deadline is on a Sunday this year, you get an extra day. This means the deadline is midnight Monday, April 16.

If you are among the procrastinators, the Internal Revenue Service recommends filing that tax return electronically.

Paper tax returns filed at the last minute often contain more errors, because people are rushing to make the deadline, Midwest IRS spokeswoman Donna Migazzi said.

"If you're a last-minute filer, the best advice I can give is to e-file your tax return," Migazzi said. "The error rate of an e-filed return is less than half a percent. That compares to an 18 percent rate on paper-filed returns."

Migazzi said that each year about half of the tax returns received by the IRS are sent during the last few weeks of the filing season.

The most common errors on the paper returns, Migazzi said, are those of omission. Tax returns are missing a signature or a Social Security number. And when the Social Security number is included, several digits are transposed. Or the W-2 and tax schedule forms aren't included.

"These are the simplest of mistakes that taxpayers make when they are rushing to make the deadline," Migazzi said.

Nationwide, almost 64 million returns have been filed, representing about 49 percent of the 130 million returns the IRS expects to receive.

"Some taxpayers wait until the final days to file," Migazzi said. "One might think this would be people who owe money, but many of the last-minute filers are getting refunds."

Those taxpayers who prepare last-minute paper returns could expect to wait as long as six weeks to receive their refund.

Filing your tax return electronically cuts that wait in half, Migazzi said. By filing electronically, taxpayers can expect to receive a refund in about 21 days. That waiting period can be even less if a taxpayer has the refund deposited directly into a bank account, Migazzi said.

In addition to its regular hours and programs, the IRS has extended its hours and made other arrangements to provide last-minute help.

IRS assistance is available: By phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-TAX-1040 and by Internet at www.irs.gov.

(c) 2001 Omaha World-Herald

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