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Tax day 101: Don't forget your Schedule M tax credit

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Damian Dovarganes/AP

(Read caption) People use a drive-in mail box to drop-in their income tax on Wednesday, April 14, in Los Angeles. Before you send in your return, check to see that you've filled in Schedule M, which offers a big tax credit.

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Schedule M is the big tax credit of 2009 that's really easy to miss.

After figuring deductions, calculating taxes, and recording estimated tax payments, the exhausted taxpayer will come to line 63 of IRS Form 1040. It has an innocuous description – "Making work pay and government retiree credits" – but potentially a big payout: $400 ($800 if married filing jointly).

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Most taxpayers will be able to claim it.

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Last year, in an attempt to reinvigorate the economy, the White House cut the amount of withholding for workers and sent out a onetime $250 payment to retirees?

That's money already in Americans' pockets. But unless they fill out Schedule M, they'll pay it back in taxes (at least initially).

About 4 percent of tax filers so far failed to send along the new schedule (including me). The IRS says the most common “error” message it has been sending this year, by far, is this:

“Based on information provided on your return we have determined you are eligible to claim the making work pay and government retiree credit on your return and have computed the credit for you.” As of April 2, the agency has sent that message to more than 575,000 Americans.

If you forgot to file Schedule M, don't worry.

"It's one of those things we're routinely checking for," says IRS spokesman Eric Smith. "We will pick it up and figure the credit. The bad news is that your refund will be delayed, maybe a week or two."