3-Minute Interview: Mary Canning

The tax expert and dean of the Schools of Taxation and Accounting at Golden Gate University has advice for last-minute filers. Canning has been at the university since 1987. In addition to serving as a professor, she has directed the school’s full-time master’s program in tax and tax internship programs.

With tax day coming up Tuesday, what is your advice to people who have still not filed? There’s still time. You have to de-emotionalize it, get all of your documents and put them in order.

Why do people wait so long to file their taxes? It’s emotional. People who wait haven’t paid attention to it all year long. They probably have a system of organization but it’s not one that’s organized toward filing their tax returns. And there’s a fear element; they don’t want to look at how much they’re going to owe.

What’s the most common mistake people make on their taxes? Not reading all of your documents closely enough.

Any common deductibles that people often miss? Non-cash charitable donations aredeductibles. What everybody should be doing is not only getting a receipt for non-cash contributions but also keeping a list and a description of everything they give away. Also, miles traveled during charity work are deductible.

What happens to people who don’t file by Tuesday? You’ll have to pay any liability that you owe on that tax, penalties will accrue, and if you don’t file a return you won’t get your rebate.

For all the procrastinators out there, is there any real tactical advantage to filing early other than getting it out of the way? I don’t think so.

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