by Raoul

Hola, RAPerinos, RAPerinas, RAPettes, and RAP readers of all other genders, persuasions, and tendencies. Raoul is very politically correct, yes no? Raoul is also very tired, but, along with the rest of the Taxmen, looking forward to the continuing thrill of this year's Taxman Tour. There are a lot of worse things to do than fly around the country preparing tax returns for your friends! The upcoming Tour stops are: Memphis, Nashville, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, and New York. So, amigos, if you are near any of those places, please wave to Raoul!

Well, here it is, the month of April, and Raoul cannot pass up the opportunity to get in a few zingers about the most important day in our history. We are not talking here about the day the thermos bottle was invented (how does it know whether to keep its contents hot or cold?). Nope, sorry, it's not Sal Mineo's birthday either. Let's talk about April 15th. That date truly has a tremendous impact on our lives, almost a religious connotation, something akin to Yom Kippur for taxpaying stiffs. Staring us in the puss is that day that has been drummed into our minds all of our lives, the day we have to file our income tax returns. Seriously, Raoul knows how you feel. In a recent survey of favorite things to do, "preparing your income tax return" finished a distant third, behind "picnicking with your family in Somalia" and "winning second place in a knife fight."

It's not so much the tax return that rattles our trees. We're conditioned; we know that we have to do it. In fact, Raoul believes that the method by which we are allowed to do it is a tribute to the responsibility and self-imposed civic discipline of our society. (Where the hell did that come from?) It's the deadline. The tax DEADLINE. Who decided on those particular four letters at the beginning of that word? DEAD. Maybe that's the problem. The pressure to have it done by April 15th, or we're D___! Well, Raoul is the man with the plan, and he has the cure. You do not have to file your tax return before you know when. Listen to Raoul. Take a deep breath, hide in the closet for awhile if you have to, but, get it out of your mind. And remember these numbers, 4868 and 2688.

Those are the forms, respectively, for the 1) Application For Automatic Extension Of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and 2) Additional Extension Of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return--"Extensions" in the CPA biz. Amigos, notice the key word in each form? Automatic! Additional! See, they are not such bad guys after all. Do you seriously think they are worried about getting that silly little stack of papers with your W-2 stapled on it and your signature? Of course not. All they want is the money!

So don't feel pressured to compromise yourselves just to satisfy Big Brother. Because, it's perfectly legal--although not as well publicized as it could be. There are many legitimate reasons to legally delay your filing. Perhaps the preparer you selected cannot get to you before April 15. Or, you may feel you need additional time to better familiarize yourself with a complicated form. Maybe you are just going on vacation. No matter. In fact, you don't even have to provide a reason until August 15.

Onward. Form 4868, as it says, is automatic and provides you with a four-month extension of time in which to file your tax return. But remember this, it does not extend your time to pay your tax! The form asks you to estimate the amount you may owe and send a payment with your request. If you send nothing and you owe tax later, you will have to pay the going rate IRS interest charge. But you will not be subject to the five percent per month late filing penalty, to a maximum of twenty-five percent, plus the interest on that, also. The extension protects you. Automatic means automatic. No explanation is required, and the form is not returned to you. Everyone gets approved, even if they are a no good dirty piece of crap lying son of a B! It's the law! In fact, you don't even have to sign it personally. The form can be prepared and signed by your hang-gliding instructor, CPA, or tax representative. Incidently, virtually all states accept the federal extension. And, hey, if you file your return and are due a refund, there is no interest or penalty charged.

The form 2688 is a request for additional time, beyond the automatic four months. The 2688 should be filed by August 15 and extends your legal filing due date to October 15. Madre De Dios, that's almost next year! Stranger than fiction? Could it be possible, or is Raoul toying with you? Maybe this is my last column, and I want to go out on a sick note and leave your collective ballestros in the proverbial wringer? Au contrer. Raoul is on the level!

The difference with the 2688 is that you have to put down a legitimate reason for needing the extra time. There are many potential, reasonable explanations for this need, not including "my tax records are now on their way to another galaxy with the aliens who kidnapped me while I was on my way to visit my accountant and prepare my income tax return. After concluding their experiments, I was released unharmed. But, in my haste and excitement, I left my attache case aboard the spacecraft, which looked something like a big silver banana with a fireman's hat, and blah blah blah blah blah...."

So, don't be rushed. There are many situations beyond your control that can honestly result in your not being able to file by the initial due date. Or, maybe you are just not in the mood. This does not make you a bandido. You can still be legal.

And finally, for Raoul's little tax buddies who may find it difficult to attempt such a radical departure from tradition without trying some sort of practice run, I suggest the following. To keep you from collapsing into a fetal position five minutes after you drop that extension into the mail, try this exercise as a warm up, approximately two weeks prior to April 15. One by one, turn over the pieces of furniture in your living room, and, while yelling the opposite of "above me! above me! above me!" at the top of your lungs, rip off all of the "do not remove under penalty of law" tags. It will make you feel better. Hasta la vista, amigos.