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4 Oct. 15 tax deadlines: 1 filing, 3 retirement related

October-15th-filing-deadlineThe federal government is mostly shut down, including lots of Internal Revenue Service functions, but if you put off filing your tax return until Tuesday, Oct. 15, you still have to meet that deadline.

But that's not the only tax move that some folks must make by Oct. 15.

Here are four tax deadlines -- making 4 this week's By the Numbers honoree -- that arrive this coming Tuesday.

1. Filing extension
OK, we've already mentioned this one and since around 10 million folks filed for an extension and many of them are going down to the wire, let's start with it.

When you got your filing extension in the spring, you should have paid any tax due or a close approximation of it. The extension -- yes, I'm repeating this -- is only for the filing of your Form 1040 (or 1040A or 1040EZ), not to extend any tax bill payment.

If you don't file your return by Oct. 15, then the IRS will start assessing late- or non-filing penalties based on any tax still due.

So if you've got work to do on your return, get to it. Check out the recent Weekly Tax Tips on tax breaks to claim and tax mistakes to avoid.

If your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less, remember that even though the IRS is not running at full speed, its Free File website is still open for procrastinating taxpayers.

And don't forget about your state tax returns. If you got extra time to file that paperwork and it is due next week, too, don't miss the deadline there.

One exception note: If you live in one of the parts of Colorado declared major disaster areas, you have until Dec. 2 instead of next week to file your return.

2. Open and contribute to a SEP
Are you self-employed, even part-time to supplement your regular paycheck? Did you get an extension to file your 1040 and accompanying Schedule C or C-EZ? Then you have until Oct. 15 to set up a SEP retirement plan and contribute money to it for 2012.

I must admit that most years I get an extension to file primarily to give me six months to come up with self-employment retirement plan money that I can contribute and then also deduct as an above-the-line deduction.

A SEP, or simplified employee pension, plan is an easy option for a one-person operation. With a basic SEP IRA you can contribute as much as 25 percent of your net self-employment income, up to a maximum for the 2012 tax year of $50,000.

Since Monday is the Columbus Day holiday, you might find some financial advisers who can help you set up a SEP are closed. Or not. Check on Monday and you at least have Tuesday to take care of the plan establishment and contribution. 

If you already have a SEP and got an extension to file, consider putting some money into your self-employed retirement plan if you haven't already.

And if you want to avoid this last-minute consideration next filing season, the SEP IRA contribution limit for 2013 is $51,000.

3. Put money into a Keogh
The same filing and retirement contribution extension also applies to a Keogh retirement plan.

There are two types of Keoghs.

A defined-contribution Keogh has the same contribution limits -- 25 percent or, for 2012, $50,000 whichever is less -- as SEP IRAs. They also entail more administrative duties.

But a defined-benefit Keogh plan essentially works as a self-employed traditional pension plan and may be designed to provide for much larger annual retirement benefits. You can contribute up to $200,000 for 2012 ($205,000 for 2013) or 100 percent of average compensation for your three highest years. This is why some highly compensated self-employed individuals opt for a Keogh.

The precise amount you can contribute to a defined-benefit Keogh plan relies on actuarial calculations based on income, desired retirement benefit, anticipated length of time until retirement and expected rate of investment returns.

Regardless of the type of Keogh, in order to put money into the plan for last tax year, you must have not only filed for a tax return extension but also have established the Keogh by Dec. 31, 2012.

If you did that, then you can contribute to it for the 2012 tax year by Oct. 15.

4. Recharacterize your Roth IRA conversion
It seemed like a good idea last year when you converted your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Now not so much.

The good news is that you get a do-over. The bad news is that you much take advantage of it by Oct. 15.

Basically, you can recharacterize, or undo, your IRA conversion by Oct. 15 of the following year, regardless of whether you requested an extension to file your tax return.

A common reason to reverse a Roth conversion is because the retirement account lost money since the change. That means that in addition to the Roth being worth less, you owe income tax on the converted amount -- remember, you must pay tax on Roth money in order to be able to take it and earnings out tax-free in retirement -- that evaporated when the market dropped.

A recharacterization, however, can erase that Roth conversion tax bill.

Do any of these four Oct. 15 deadlines apply to you? Get busy!

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