In a bind? These pointers could prevent you from filing your taxes late.

By Real Simple
Updated February 28, 2011
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This article originally appeared on

We don’t want you to be that person who’s standing in line at the post office the day that taxes are due. But, we know that sometimes life happens.

So, wipe off that sheepish expression and make sure that you have all your financial ducks in a row.

Here’s what to do if you’re filing last-minute:

File for an Extension
You don’t even have to tell the IRS about the coffee-induced all-nighter you pulled to get your taxes in order. Just fill out IRS Form 4838 and submit it on paper or by e-filing. It’s easy, and the IRS grants extensions automatically. Note that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay.

Don’t Let Lack of Money Keep You From Filing
If you’ve been holding off on filing because you can’t pay everything all at once, consider applying for an installment agreement, which will let you pay your taxes over time. It costs $105 to set up the plan, but that price is lowered to $52 if you let the IRS withdraw your funds electronically. For more info, check out IRS Form 9465.

Verify Your Bank Info Before You Submit
Filing your taxes electronically is incredibly convenient—and allows the IRS to directly deposit your refund into your bank account, giving you access to the money sooner. That said, be very careful when you submit your routing and account numbers. You don’t want your money to get lost on its way to you!

Double Check Social Security Numbers
If you’re filing in a hurry, you’re more likely to make mistakes. Before you mail in your return, make sure that all of your personal information is correct. Incorrect info can be a red flag for auditors. If you have any dependents, putting down their social security numbers incorrectly can make you ineligible for certain tax credits.

Don’t Forget To Sign Your Return
An unsigned return is invalid, so make sure to sign yours if you’re filing on paper. If someone else prepared your return, then both you and the preparer should sign.

Plan Your (Post Office) Attack
If you’re submitting by mail, your taxes must be postmarked by April 18th. (It’s usually April 15th, but in 2011 the government pushed it back in order to recognize Emancipation Day.) Some post offices have late hours on tax day for just this reason—but not all do, so check with your local post office now so you’re prepared. Even so, lines will be very long at post offices with extended hours, so get your taxes out immediately rather than waiting until the last minute.

Go With Certified Mail
That way, you’ll have a record that your tax return was received. With certified mail, you’ll receive a receipt stamped with the date of mailing and a tracking number so you can verify online. If you really want to be sure, go with return receipt service, which will give you a copy of the signature of the person who received your package, viewable online or by mail.

You Can Submit via Messenger Services Like FedEx and UPS
If you decide to go with FedEx instead of a regular post office (maybe the lines are shorter), that’s okay. Although the IRS provides customers with a post office box address—and carriers like FedEx don’t deliver to P.O. boxes—just ask the person behind the counter. She should be able to provide you with an alternate address in your region.