For millions of U.S. taxpayers, perhaps the most dreaded countdown of the year is drawing to a close: Today is the deadline for filing your taxes with the IRS.
While the majority of Americans have already submitted their tax returns, the IRS estimates that at least 20 million -- one in seven tax filers -- are waiting until this week to send in their returns, whether it be by lining up at the local post office or clicking their mouse buttons through tax software or the IRS' own electronic tax forms.
If you're one of them and you have yet to tackle your 1040 form and other paperwork, take heart: ABCNews.com has compiled a list of tips on deductions and time-saving tax tricks.
If you're feeling more adventurous, you can also check out some tax loopholes that saved money for American taxpayers in the past, as well as some that backfired.
But first, what you should know if you're preparing your return now.
File online for free. For the first time, no matter what your income, you can file your tax returns online for free through the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov.
Those who earned less than $56,000 in adjusted gross income in 2008 can also qualify for free software for step-by-step help.
If you're eligible for a tax refund, filing electronically will help you get that cash much more quickly than mailing in your returns.
File for a tax extension but get ready to pay. If you just can't get your returns finished in time, file an extension. Everyone is eligible for an extension, which allows taxpayers six more months -- until Oct. 15 -- to file returns and millions of Americans take advantage of extensions every year.
The bad news is that, like tax returns, extension requests are also due April 15, and filing one doesn't mean you get more time to pay your taxes. It just means you get more time to finish your paperwork. Taxpayers filing extension requests must still estimate roughly how much they owe the IRS (if anything) and send a check for that amount by April 15.
Don't pay too little. If you're in a hurry and filing an extension, a good way to determine how much you owe is to use last year's tax filings as your guide. Given the beating that the recession has given to many people's income and investments, if you owe money at all, chances are you owe less than last year.
But don't drop your estimate too much: If the IRS finds you haven't paid enough, you'll face fees and penalties.
Last year's tax returns will be less helpful if you've had a major life change, like purchasing a house or switching jobs. In that situation, it might be best to consult a tax professional.
Standard deductions make for quick filings. If your financial life isn't a complicated one -- you don't pay interest on a home mortgage, you don't make large charitable contributions, etc. -- you can get your taxes done quickly by filing for a standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions.
For 2008 tax returns, the standard deduction for single individuals is $5,450; for married couples, it's $10,900. Additional standard deductions apply for those over age 65 and with disabilities.