As the April 18 income-tax filing deadline approaches, IRS Spokesman Mark S. Green offers tax tips for those still working on their tax returns. “Millions of taxpayers are rushing to complete their taxes and thousands more realize they’re going to need more time. We estimate that 4.7 million Georgians will be filing tax returns this year. Thus far we have received over 2.7 million tax returns with an average refund of $2, 866,” said Green. “During this period one of the most asked questions is should I file by April 18th, if I can’t pay the tax due? The answer is yes! You should file on time (or request the automatic six-month extension) and pay as much of the tax as possible with your return. If you do not file your return by the due date, you may have to pay a failure-to-file penalty. The key is to file something by midnight April 18th, your tax return or the extension,” said Green.
As taxpayers begin to work on finalizing their tax returns, here are some valuable free helpful tax tips to avoid the stress and help beat the rush.
- Prepare Now: Make sure you have all the documents you need to file your tax return. Gather together your Forms W-2 (earnings statements) and 1099 (interest/dividend/state tax refund statements). If you own a home, you will need Form 1098 to get the amount of mortgage interest and real estate taxes you paid. If you itemize, make sure you have the receipts for all your deductions such as charitable donations and medical expenses. You will also need a Social Security number (SSN) for yourself, spouse and any dependents listed on the return. If you don’t e-file, check all math and data entries-including SSNs-to ensure they are correct and legible. Inaccurate or missing information could delay your refund.
- Don’t Miss Out on Unclaimed Refunds: About 34,300 Georgians who haven’t filed a tax return for 2012 are missing out on more than $29 million in unclaimed refunds. To collect these refunds a 2012 tax return must be filed with the IRS no later than April 18, 2016. Half of these unclaimed refunds would be for more than $642.
- Avoid Waiting on hold or in long Lines: Taxpayers should always check IRS.gov for days and hours of service as well as services offered at the location they plan to visit. IRS urges taxpayers to use Direct Pay to make the payment online whenever possible. IRS.gov remains the most effective way to get IRS forms, instructions and publications. In addition, most IRS questions can be answered through the Tax Tips, FAQs, News releases and other helpful information available on the IRS website.
- Choosing a Qualified Tax Preparer: The IRS has launched a new, online public directory of tax return preparers the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications This searchable directory on IRS.gov will help taxpayers find a tax professional with credentials and select qualifications to help them prepare their tax returns. “If you choose to use a paid tax preparer, it is important that you find a qualified tax professional. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for everything on their return even when it’s prepared by someone else. This new directory will be a great resource for taxpayers who rely on the services of a paid return preparer,” said Green. All tax professionals preparing returns for a fee must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). “We strongly recommend you select someone who is creditable, knowledgeable, accountable, and has a valid 2016 Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN).” added Green.
- Health insurance: Individuals who bought health insurance through the Marketplace should receive Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement. If you do not receive your Form 1095-A by early February or you believe it is incorrect, you should contact the Marketplace from which you received coverage. All taxpayers who are reporting coverage, claiming a health coverage exemption, making an individual shared responsibility payment, or claiming the premium tax credit should consider filing their tax return electronically. E-filing a tax return is the simplest way to file a complete and accurate tax return as it guides individuals through the process and does all the math for them. * Also NEW if you have insurance through employment you should receive Form 1095-B, Health Coverage, or Form 1095-C Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage.
If you are expecting to receive a Form 1095-A, you should wait to file your 2015 income tax return until you receive that form. However, it is not necessary to wait for Forms 1095-B or 1095-C in order to file.
Most taxpayers will simply check a box on their tax return to indicate that each member of their family had qualifying health coverage for the whole year. If you, your spouse and dependents had health insurance coverage all year, you will indicate this by simply checking a box on your tax return. No further action is required. For more information about the Affordable Care Act and your 2015 income tax return, visit IRS.gov/aca.
- File Electronically for Free: Even If You Owe-There’s no need to hold on to your return because you owe money. You can file electronically now and set your automatic payment for April 18th. You can e-file through a tax preparer, personal computer and tax preparation software or using the IRS Free File program. The IRS Free File program offers free tax return preparation and free e-filing to individuals with an AGI of $62,000 or less through a partnership with software companies. To Free File, go to the IRS Web site at https://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File:-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free, click on Free File and select a software company that meets your needs. Remember, you must access all Free File software companies through the IRS Web site. Electronic filing has many benefits. E-filing offers faster refunds, more accurate returns, paperless filing, and confirmation within 48 hours that IRS has accepted your tax return. “We see a dramatic reduction in the number of errors with tax returns that are filed electronically,” said Green, and better yet, if you choose direct deposit, you can have your refund put placed in your bank account in as little as 21 days!
- Free Tax Return Preparation for You by Volunteers: The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify.
VITA — The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $54,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations.
TCE — The TCE Program offers free tax help for all with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS. Find a VITA Site Near You
There are thousands of VITA sites located across the country. You may find a site near you between January and April using the VITA Locator Tool or call 1-800-906-9887.
- More Time to File: People who haven’t finished filling out their return can get an automatic six-month extension. The fastest and easiest way to get the extra time is through the Free File link on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an automatic tax-filing extension on Form 4868. Also, you can request an extension by mailing in Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to the Internal Revenue Service. Form 4868 is available on the IRS Web site at irs.gov. You may e-file an extension request using tax preparation software on your own computer or through a tax preparer. You will get an acknowledgment that the IRS has received your request. Members of the military and others serving in combat zone localities. Typically, taxpayers can wait until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due. For details, see Extensions of Deadlines in Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide.
- More Time to Pay: Taxpayers who have finished their returns should file by the regular April 15 deadline, even if they can’t pay the full amount due. In many cases, those struggling with unpaid taxes qualify for one of several relief programs. Most people can set up a payment agreement with the IRS on line in a matter of minutes. Those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to six years. Taxpayers can choose this option even if they have not yet received a bill or notice from the IRS. Alternatively, taxpayers can request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465-FS. This form can be downloaded from IRS.gov and mailed along with a tax return, bill or notice.
- Taxpayers with a balance due: IRS now have several quick and easy ways to electronically pay what they owe. They include: IRS Direct Pay is a free and secure way for you to make payments directly from your bank account. If you file electronically you can elect an electronic funds withdrawal from your savings or checking account. The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System is a system for paying federal taxes electronically using the Internet, or by phone (enrollment is required). Or, you may be able to do a same-day wire transfer from your financial institution. And you can always send a check or money order with your return or when you get a bill. Taxpayers who choose to pay by check or money order should make the payment out to the “United States Treasury.” Write “2014 Form 1040,” name, address, daytime phone number and Social Security number on the front of the check or money order. To help insure that the payment is credited promptly, also enclose a Form 1040-V payment voucher.
- What if you can’t pay now? If you can’t afford to pay what you owe in full, alternatives are available. A payment plan may be an option. You can request a short-term payment plan up to 120-days. There is no user fee for a short-payment plan.
You can also request a longer term monthly payment agreement. A $120 user fee applies to monthly payment plans; the fee is reduced to $52 if you make your payments by direct debit. Individual taxpayers who owe more than $50,000 and businesses that owe more than $25,000 are required to submit a financial statement with their request for a payment plan.
Another option may be an Offer in Compromise. An Offer in Compromise is an agreement between you and the IRS to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. The offer program provides eligible taxpayers with a path toward paying off their tax debt and getting a “fresh start.” Not everyone will qualify for an offer. Use the IRS’ Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier Tool to see if the Offer program is right for you.
More information about your payment options is available at IRS.gov.
If you do not find an option that works for you, other alternatives, including a temporary suspension of IRS collection efforts, may be available. Contact the IRS immediately to discuss these other options.
- What are some of the most common errors people make when filing a paper return?
- Social security number (missing, illegible or SSN and name do not match)
- Failure to sign and date the return. For a joint return, both spouses must sign.
- Earned Income Credit figured or entered incorrectly.
- Incorrect tax amount entered from the tables.
- Math errors.
Double-Check Your Figures – If you are filing a paper return, you should double-check that you have correctly figured the refund or balance due
- 14. Check the Identification Numbers – When filing a paper return carefully check the identification
numbers — usually Social Security numbers — for each person listed. This includes you, your spouse, dependents and persons listed in relation to claims for the Child and Dependent Care Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit. Missing, incorrect or illegible Social Security Numbers can delay or reduce a tax refund. Also new this year; check the box if you had health coverage.
- 15. Mailing Your Return – Use the coded envelope included with your tax package to mail your return. If you did not receive an envelope, check the section called “Where Do You File?” in the tax instruction booklet.
Mailing a Payment – People sending a payment should make the check out to “United States Treasury” and should enclose it with, but not attach it to the tax return or the Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, if used. The check should include the taxpayer’s Social Security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and the type of form filed.
- 16. Watch Out for Phone Scams: Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat to taxpayers. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent months as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise during any filing season.
- Phishing: Taxpayers need to be on guard against fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will not send you an email about a bill or refund out of the blue. Don’t click on one claiming to be from the IRS that takes you by surprise. Taxpayers should be wary of clicking on strange emails and websites. They may be scams to steal your personal information.
- Identity Theft: Taxpayers need to watch out for identity theft especially around tax time. The IRS continues to aggressively pursue the criminals that file fraudulent returns using someone else’s Social Security number. The IRS is making progress on this front but taxpayers still need to be extremely careful and do everything they can to avoid becoming a victim
- 17. Where to Get Tax Help or Forms: The IRS has several options available for tax help and forms. Go to the IRS Web site at irs.gov to get tax forms and publications as well as tax information. Recorded tax information on a variety of tax topics is available by calling 1-800-829-4477. Toll-free telephone assistance is available by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. Free tax help is as near as a community center, school, local library or senior center for thousands of Taxpayers this year. Volunteers are on-site at more than 400 locations statewide and are ready to offer free tax return preparation and, at many sites, free electronic filing. Call 1-800-906-9887 for volunteer tax site locations. Help is also available at some IRS offices. Check out the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov for IRS office locations and hours.