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Making Work Pay: A Few Days, Maybe More, Remain to Claim $400

April 15 is approaching fast, so here's one more reminder to fill in Schedule M of Form 1040 and claim the Making Work Pay tax credit. A component of the 2009 economic stimulus package, the credit, which almost all working taxpayers can benefit from, is good for $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples who file jointly.

Details of how to obtain the credit can be found in an older post. The paperwork is simple enough; Schedule M is a single page. The hard part is knowing that the credit, which also will be available for 2010, exists at all.

There is no way to know what proportion of taxpayers who have already filed their returns claimed the credit. A spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, Robert Marvin, told MoneyWatch that the agency does not keep a running tab of who is filing what.

He did say that if you have already filed your 1040 without Schedule M, it's not too late to get what's coming to you under Making Work Pay. You have two chances, in fact.

The IRS routinely grants taxpayers a do-over, allowing them to file amended returns to correct mistakes and omissions in their original filings. They can do this to claim the Making Work Pay credit too, Marvin said. But there may be a less cumbersome way to grab the credit.

As some chagrined taxpayers know, the IRS is happy to correct your return and let you know when you have underpaid your tax. Apparently the agency follows the same procedure in reverse. If you neglected to take the credit, Marvin said, there is a good chance that the IRS will alert you to the fact and reduce your tax bill accordingly.

"A taxpayer always can amend," Marvin said, "but it's the kind of mistake we can often catch in processing the return and can make an adjustment."

For you late filers looking for a bit of help, here is a compendium of MoneyWatch tax tips.