The Oct. 15 deadline is nearing for an estimated 1.5 million Californians who requested a six-month extension to file their 2008 tax returns.

Taxpayers are encouraged to electronically file their taxes; nearly 10.9 million Californians have electronically filed so far this year.

Two “Free File” tax preparation and e-filing programs are available, but only through the official IRS Web site. Traditional Free File is available for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $56,000 or less. Free File Fillable Forms can be used by people who earned more. Go to the Free File page on the Web site for more details.

First-Time Homebuyer Credit

Some taxpayers may have requested a filing extension to claim the first-time homebuyer credit for a home purchase that closed after the April 15 tax deadline.

Those who purchased a home in 2009 may be able to receive a credit of up to $8,000 for home purchases that closed since the beginning of the year. First-time homebuyers who purchased a home in 2008 may be able to receive a credit of up to $7,500. The 2008 credit must be repaid over 15 years.

When doing a tax return, Form 5405 must be used to claim the credit. See the First-Time Homebuyer Credit page on the IRS Web site for more details.

Deadline Nears for Special Offshore Voluntary Disclosures

Oct. 15 is also the deadline for special voluntary disclosures by taxpayers with assets in previously undisclosed offshore financial accounts.

Under the special provisions issued in March, taxpayers with these accounts originally had until Sept. 23 to come forward. Those taxpayers who do not voluntarily disclose their accounts by Oct. 15 face harsh civil penalties, where applicable, and possible criminal prosecution.

See the Voluntary Disclosure page online for more details. In Southern California, taxpayers wanting to participate also may call 714.347.9226 for more information.

— Victor Omelczenko is an Internal Revenue Service media relations specialist.