NEW YORK (WABC) -- It's tax filing crunch time, with the deadline set for Monday before midnight. But if you haven't filed, you have company -- a third of Americans wait until the last minute.
A new survey finds the most common reason for delaying is there's no refund, so no rush to file. But that could be a big mistake, as the IRS is reporting tax refunds are nearly 12% higher over last year.
To maximize your refund, 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda has some great last minute tax tips.
First, the good news: Refund checks are fatter this year.
Roughly 58 million checks that went out already averaged $3,263, which is a whopping $400 more than average returns for last year.
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To get your money quicker, file electronically and get a direct deposit right into your bank account
"The sooner that you file, the faster your tax refund can be processed," debt relief attorney Leslie Tayne said.
Tayne, based in Melville, says the biggest mistake her clients make is ignoring the deadline. If you just can't get your paperwork together by Monday, file an extension.
"It's a very simple process," she said. "It's a free form, and it's form #4868. You can file that form, but you need to file that form before April 18...Keep in mind that while the extension grants additional time to file your taxes, the tax payments are still due April 18 for most taxpayers."
If you can't afford to pay your entire tax bill, Tayne says try to pay a portion what you think you owe, because the late fees accrue every month the return is late -- up to 25% of your unpaid taxes.
Next are write-offs. Teachers should remember to claim virtual expenses for programs and materials they bought to teach remotely.
Other common forgotten write-offs include mortgage and student loan interest, medical expenses, home office deductions, what you donated to charity and retirement savings.
If you're over 50, you can still reduce your taxable income by up to $7,000 before the deadline.
"If you were slacking over the course of the year and you have some extra funds, now's a good time to put it in," Tayne said.
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There's also some red flags to watch for to avoid potential scams.
If you hire someone to do your taxes, beware of ghost preparers charging fees up front and refusing to sign returns.
You could be on the hook for fake income and phony deductions, and never fall for phishing scams with calls, texts, or emails from con artists trying to steal your returns.
Remember, the IRS will never contact you and threaten you to pay on the spot. If anyone calls you and wants you to pay via a cash app, gift card, or wire transfer, hang up. It's a scam.
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