Getting an extra two days to file taxes beyond the usual April 15 tax filing deadline isn't likely to cure a nation of procrastinators this year.
Tens of millions of us routinely wait until just before the deadline to file returns. More than 30 percent of taxpayers filed the week before Tax Day or later via extensions in 2011, and Internal Revenue Service statistics show the pace is similar this year.
Perhaps working under deadline pressure helps you focus better on the task at hand. But procrastinating may come at a price.
Here are some points for end-of-season tax filers to keep in mind:
*The price of rushing: It's easy to miss possible deductions that will lower your taxes if you're in a hurry. With the clock ticking down, you might not try as hard to look for them.
Along with simple math errors, late filers also are prone to transposing Social Security numbers or birthdates on their returns. Not only can such snags delay your refund, you might not even be allowed to file your return online if all the numbers of you and your dependents don't match up properly with the records. That might be an issue if the 11:59 p.m. Tuesday deadline is looming and you can't quickly figure out what the problem is and how to fix it.
*Deductions to remember: There's only about one action you can take at this late date to reduce your 2011 taxes, according to Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst for the CCH consulting firm in Riverwoods, Ill.: Contributing to an individual retirement account for 2011. Taxpayers have until Tax Day to contribute to an IRA and get a deduction.
Aside from IRAs, make sure you claim all eligible deductions for moves you made last year.
Charitable contributions are high on any list of deductions often missed. Diligently go through your checking account and credit card accounts to check for specifics of that $300, $500 or $800 you recall giving to your church or favorite qualified charity.
Another one that's frequently overlooked is for heavy medical expenses. If your health expenditures shot up last year, be aware that you may deduct the amount by which your total medical care expenses for the year exceeded 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.
A lot of taxpayers also fail to take deductions for eligible gambling losses. Just as gambling winnings are fully taxable and must be reported, losses from horse races, casinos and other legal wagers may be deducted. Sorry, losses from your March Madness office pool don't count.
*Easy extensions: Those who think they may miss the deadline should ask the IRS for more time to file. You can do so by submitting form 4868. Six-month extensions are granted automatically; you'll have until Oct. 15 to file taxes.
Filing for an extension will enable you to avoid a late-filing penalty, normally 5 percent per month based on the unpaid balance. And you can reduce or eliminate interest and late-payment penalties if you send in a payment by the deadline. The current interest rate is 3 percent per year, compounded daily, and the late-payment penalty is normally 0.5 percent per month.
*Don't just sit there, pay something: If you owe taxes, you still have to pay by April 17. The extension is just to get your filing in.
There are options if you can afford to pay. You can request to pay in installments by filling out form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. It will cost you a fee ranging from $43 to $105 plus interest, but payment won't be delinquent.
Whatever you do, don't give in to any temptation to skip the process. Not filing a return when required is considered income tax evasion with penalties that include paying back taxes, interest and possible fines, and possibly even serving a prison sentence in the most serious cases.