Tax time is coming

By Daily Journal Reports

TUPELO – Tax season has been pushed back eight days this year, but it still is rapidly approaching.
Starting Jan. 30, the majority of Americans – more than 120 million households – will be able to file their taxes.
The delay was caused by changes to the tax law passed Jan. 1 by Congress. The Internal Revenue Service originally planned to open electronic filing this year on Jan. 22.
The agency said more than 80 percent of taxpayers filed electronically last year and reminded Americans this month about the advantage of e-filing.
“There is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date, and taxpayers will receive their tax refunds much faster by using e-file with direct deposit,” the IRS said.
The IRS said it issues refunds to 98 percent of electronic filers by direct deposit within 14 days, if there are no problems, and some may be issued in as few as 10 days.
After the early filers, the IRS expects the next bunch of forms to come in late February or early March. This group includes people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits. Most of those in this group file more complex tax returns and typically file closer to the April 15 deadline or obtain an extension.
And with more than 5,000 changes to the tax code since 2001, more taxpayers are turning to others for help. About 60 percent of filers will pay someone to prepare their tax returns, and another 30 percent will use commercial software.
What you need to file
You don’t have to wait until Jan. 30 to start preparing. Use the extra time to gather paperwork.
Find a copy of last year’s tax return. Look for receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you are claiming on your return.
Your W-2s and 1099s will be coming soon. Look for those in the mail. If you don’t get them, check with your employer.
Have your routing number and bank account number if you want to sign up for direct deposit of your refund.
Now you need to determine how you want to file.
Options for filing
ON PAPER YOURSELF: The IRS no longer mails paper tax packages. The quickest way to get forms and instructions is the IRS website at www.irs.gov. Taxpayers can also get them from a local IRS office, a participating community outlet like many libraries and post offices, or from the IRS’s automated forms line at 1-800-TAX-FORM.

• E-FILE YOURSELF: The IRS offers free federal filing through www.irs.gov. If you made $57,000 or less, you qualify to use free tax software offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, you can file for free using the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile to review your options.

• FREE PREPARATION: BancorpSouth will file taxes for free for people whose gross income is $50,000 or less. Taxes will be prepared by appointment only. Starting Monday, you can call the United Way at (662)-841-9133 to schedule a time.
The service is available Jan. 28 through March 2 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon.
The appointments are inside Spanish Village at 146 S. Thomas St. Suite D.

• PAY A TAX PREPARER: Many people look for help from professionals when it’s time to file their tax return. Even if a return is prepared by someone else, the taxpayer is legally responsible for what’s on it.
The IRS encourages tax filers to check the preparer’s qualifications. New regulations require all paid tax return preparers to have a preparer tax identification number. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization and attends continuing education classes.
Also, ask about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. Also, always make sure any refund is sent to you or deposited into an account in your name. Under no circumstances should all or part of your refund be directly deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
The IRS also advises filers to make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file and that you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions come up.
Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return before you receive your Form W-2 using your last pay stub. This is against IRS e-file rules.
Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
Review the entire return before signing it. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN. A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.