PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A local tax preparer said not filing your taxes by Tax Day is the worst thing you can do, and there are better options available.

William Sharpe, president of Total Income Tax, recommends filing an extension rather than not filing at all.

“Not filing is the worst thing you could do because there’s a penalty for not filing and a penalty for not paying. Two penalties, and the penalty for not filing is ten times as severe as the penalty for not paying… Don’t just seize up and do nothing. File an extension, or just file, even if you don’t have the money, and create payment terms later,” he said.

An extension will buy six months to October 15 to file the tax return itself, but any taxes owed are still due before that.

“It doesn’t give you an extension of time to pay, it gives you an extension of time to file,” said Sharpe.

For filers with children, Sharpe said the end of pandemic-era childcare credits could result in a higher tax bill or smaller refund.

“The last two years, we’ve had a really good tax situation due to COVID and the stimulus related to that. So this year, we’re coming back to reality. So there’s a lot of people feeling the burn,” he said.

Another tip is to file electronically instead of by snail mail.

“Mail is not the way to go. It takes a long time, it’s very slow. There’s no verification of you filing the tax return. You really have to have a good reason not to file electronically. You get your refund faster, there’s a trail you can follow if you need to, so it helps,” said Sharpe.

The IRS offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) through AARP Foundation Tax-Aide to low-income and elderly residents. There are two locations in Central Illinois available:

  • Peoria North Library | 3001 W. Grand Pkwy, Peoria | until April 20
  • Fondulac District Library | 400 Richland St., East Peoria | until April 15

Tax Day is Tuesday, April 18.