As the last month of the tax filing season approaches, tax preparers have heard countless pleas to reduce the amount due to Uncle Sam. People from all walks of life spend immeasurable breaths telling us that they “pay too much in tax already.” I have heard many times “my friend doesn’t pay tax” or “I’ll take the highest deduction allowed.”

Some people hope that their preparer will help them hide income while others look to make up deductions. Oddly enough, some even make up income in an effort to take advantage of earned income credits. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous preparers that will help these individuals commit tax fraud.

So who doesn’t hate taxes? Our history books have glorified the Colonial era tax protesters of the Boston Tea Party and the Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion. It seems like fighting for lower taxes is an American right.

Hate taxes or not, most of us have to file. The due date this year is April 17 because of the Emancipation Day holiday. Even with all of the advance notice, there will still be far too many who file late or do not file returns at all.

For those who cannot meet the filing deadline, an extension to file (IRS Form 2848) should be filed with a payment estimating any tax due. Note that the extension applies to the date your return is due, but does not extend the date to pay your taxes. Late filed returns that owe tax are penalized under Code Section 6651, five percent each month that the return is late and up to 25 percent. In addition, penalties will be assessed for paying the tax late.

Oddly enough, not everybody who avoids filing a tax return does so as an attempt to elude taxes.

In a report published last March, the IRS announced that unclaimed federal income tax refunds totaling more than $1 billion may be waiting for an estimated 1 million taxpayers who did not file a 2013 return.

The IRS estimated that the midpoint of the average refund would be $763. The report shows a state-by-state listing of estimated unfiled returns and refund mid-point. Maine is listed as having 4,000 taxpayers who did not file a 2013 return with a total refund potential of $3,645,000.

One can conclude that an equal number of returns were not filed in 2014, 2015 and 2016. As April 17 approaches, it is important to remember that the opportunity to file a return to claim a refund expires three years after the original filing due date. Therefore, taxpayers who have not yet filed their 2014 tax return, have until next month to file their return to claim a refund.

Hating taxes and not filing a return can be painful if you owe tax, but it is so wasteful to leave your potential refund unclaimed.

Jamie Boulette, CPA has 30 years of tax experience and is managing director of Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs with offices in Bath and Oakland.

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