2. Make a last-minute estimated tax paymentIf you didn’t pay enough to the IRS during the year, you may have a big tax bill staring you in the face. Plus, you might owe significant interest and penalties, too.
How could that happen? Withholding on your paycheck may be out of whack, or you may have received a big gain from selling stock. According to IRS rules, you must pay 100 percent of last year’s tax liability or 90 percent of this year’s tax or you will owe an underpayment penalty. If your adjusted gross income for 2011 was more than $150,000, you have to pay more than 110 percent of your 2011 tax liability to be protected from a 2012 underpayment penalty. If your tax payments were a bit light, you may be stuck.
If you make an estimated payment by January 15, though, you can erase any penalty for the fourth quarter, but you still will owe a penalty for earlier quarters if you did not send in any estimated payments back then. But if your income windfall arrived after August 31, 2012, , you can file Form 2210: Underpayment of Estimated Tax to annualize your estimated tax liability, and possibly reduce any extra charges.
A note of caution: Try not to pay too much. It’s better to owe the government a little rather than to expect a refund. Remember, the IRS doesn’t give you a dime of interest when it borrows your money.