1997 Tax Help Archives  

When, Where, and How to File

This is archived information that pertains only to the 1997 Tax Year. If you
are looking for information for the current tax year, go to the Tax Prep Help Area.

April 15, 1998 is the last day for filing your 1997 federal income tax return, if your tax year ends December 31st. Your return is considered filed on time if the envelope is properly addressed and postmarked no later than April 15, 1998. If you use a fiscal year, which is a year ending on the last day of any month other than December, your return is due by the 15th day of the fourth month after the close of your fiscal year. When the due date for filing falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, you can file on the next business day.

You can get an automatic 4-month extension to file your return by filing Form 4868 on or before the due date of your return. Additional time beyond the automatic 4 months is granted only for very good reasons. You may apply for an extension beyond the automatic 4-month extension either in a letter or by filling out Form 2688. However, an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. You must pay interest on any past-due tax and you may also be subject to a late-payment penalty.

If you are a United States citizen or resident or a member of the armed forces, whose home and main place of business or post of duty is outside the United States and Puerto Rico on April 15, 1998, you are allowed an automatic extension until June 15, 1998, to file your return and pay any tax due for 1997. If you use this automatic extension, you must attach a statement to your return saying that your home and your main place of business or post of duty are outside the United States and Puerto Rico on the due date of your return. See Topic 304 for more information about extensions.

In filing your return, you should use the peel-off label that is included in your tax package. Check the label to be sure the information is correct. Make any corrections right on the label. If there is no room for all the necessary corrections, do not use it. Write in all required information directly on your tax return. If you did not receive a tax return package with a label, print or type your name address and social security number in the space provided. Be sure that the social security number is the same as the number listed on your social security card. If you have changed your name and have not notified the Social Security Administration, you should contact them as soon as possible.

If a joint return is filed, both husband and wife must sign the return. If your spouse cannot sign because of disease or injury and tells you to sign the return, then sign your spouse's name in the proper place followed by the word "by", your name, and "husband" or "wife". Be sure to also sign your own name. In addition, you must attach a statement that includes the form number of the return you are filing, the tax year, the reason your spouse cannot sign the return, and that your spouse has agreed to your signing for him or her. If you are the guardian for your spouse who is mentally incompetent, you may sign the return for your spouse, as guardian.

If your spouse cannot sign the return for any other reason, you may sign it only if you are given a valid power of attorney. The document granting you power of attorney should be attached to the return when it is filed. Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, may be used for this purpose.

If you are filing a return for a minor child who cannot sign the return, sign your child's name followed by the word "by", your signature, and your relationship, such as "parent" or "guardian of minor child".

For information on signing a return for a decedent, see Topic 356.

Be sure to attach your W-2's and any Form 1099R that shows Federal income tax withheld to the front of the return. Also, be sure to attach all related schedules and forms behind your return in order of the sequence number located in the upper right hand corner.

If you owe money, make your check or money order payable to the Internal Revenue Service, and enclose it with your tax return. On the front of your check or money order, put your name, address, social security number, daytime phone number, and the tax year and type of form you are filing (for example, "1997 Form 1040"). Do not mail cash with your return.

If you cannot pay the amount owed with the return, see Topic 201, The Collection Process, for more information.

Mail your return to the address given in the tax form instructions for the area where you live. If possible, use the pre-addressed envelope that came with your tax booklet. If you are mailing payment, follow any additional instructions in your tax form package.

Instead of mailing your return to IRS, you may want to have it filed electronically. When you file electronically, you usually receive your refund within 3 weeks after the IRS has received your return. You'll get your refund even faster if you have it deposited directly into your checking or savings account. For a fee, many professional tax return preparers offer electronic filing in addition to their return preparation services, or you can prepare your own return, and pay a tax professional to transmit it electronically for you. For more information on electronic filing, see Topic 252.

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