Home | Back
Ready ... set ... file!
January 20, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio " Taxes. They're one of the few certainties in life. Now that the 2012 federal income tax return filing season is now fully underway, the Internal Revenue Service wants to be certain that Maple Heights and other area residents know about their tax preparation and filing options, especially when it comes to e-file and IRS Free File.
"If you haven't previously tried e-file, it's not too late to add e-filing to your 2012 resolutions," said Jennifer Jenkins, IRS spokesperson for Ohio. "E-file really does have a lot going for it: it's safe, it's fast, it's easy, and it's free through www.IRS.gov."
Last year, more than 4.2 million of the 112 million individual e-filed returns were from Ohio taxpayers. In most every case when a refund was due, e-filers who elected for direct deposit received their money within 10 days. "Why risk omitting important information or making math miscalculations, when you can have the computer check your work for you?" Jenkins asked.
IRS Free File for the 2012 filing season also began Jan. 17. "Free File saves taxpayers time and money," Jenkins said. Individuals or families with 2011 adjusted gross incomes of $57,000 or less can use Free File's brand-name software, offered by the IRS' commercial partners. Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, has no income restrictions. More than 33 million returns have been filed through Free File since its debut 10 years ago.
Free File software is a product of a public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, LLC. The Alliance is a consortium of approximately 20 tax software providers who make versions of their free-file products available exclusively at www.IRS.gov/freefile. All Free File members must meet certain security requirements and use the latest in encryption technology to protect taxpayers' information. Seventy percent of taxpayers " 100 million people nationwide " are eligible for Free File software.
"Ohio taxpayers who aren't sure which of the Free File software brands to choose from can use the Free File "wizard" tool on www.IRS.gov/freefile to help narrow down the field and hone on the software that is best suited to their needs," Jenkins noted. "In some cases, state tax return prep and filing software is also available."
IRS Free File is one of three ways that taxpayers can e-file their tax returns - the other options being e-filing through a tax return preparer or through self-preparation software. The IRS does not charge for e-file. Many tax return preparers and software products also offer free e-filing with their services.
Starting this filing season, any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically. Taxpayers are encouraged to use tax return preparers who offer IRS e-file. Taxpayers should also only use paid preparers who sign the returns they prepare and enter their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs). Preparers are required to sign the returns they prepare and include their PTINs. Although paid preparers sign returns, taxpayers are legally responsible for the accuracy of every item on their return. Preparers are also required to give taxpayers a copy of their returns.
"If you're seeking the assistance of a tax professional " like many Ohioans do each year " be sure you verify that he or she has a valid PTIN. By registering for PTINs on a yearly basis, tax preparers demonstrate their professionalism and willingness to work with the IRS to promote competency in the tax preparation industry. Legit preparers will have valid PTINs. Steer clear from tax preparers promising big refunds before even taking a look at your yearly income and expenses " they may be scammers seeking your personal and financial information," Jenkins advised.
Jenkins noted that tax preparation scams aren't the only scams that taxpayers need to be aware of in order to avoid. "During filing season, the IRS and taxes are on a lot of people's minds. Con artists may try to use that to lure people into internet-based scams. The only official IRS website is www.IRS.gov. Don't fall for phishing attempts -- remember that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via email, or request sensitive personal or financial information via email."
The IRS is working with select volunteer tax sites such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly. Low- to moderate-income taxpayers, seniors and military personnel can receive free, face-to-face tax assistance at numerous VITA and TCE sites in Cuyahoga and other counties across the state and nationwide. IRS-certified tax assistance volunteers are required to complete a comprehensive tax preparation course and pass an end-of-course test prior to working with taxpayers. New volunteers are always welcome " email TaxVolunteer@IRS.gov to connect and help with your local VITA or TCE site.
E-file has an established track record, proving itself year in and year out as a safe and secure method of filing a tax return. Software vendors and paid tax return preparers use the latest encryption technology. Most VITA and TCE sites also offer e-file services. Plus, within 48 hours, an electronic acknowledgement is issued that the return has been received by the IRS and either accepted or rejected.
For people who owe taxes, e-file offers payment alternatives such as filing now and scheduling payment on the April 17 tax deadline. Taxpayers who still want to pay by check can do so by e-filing and then mailing a payment voucher.
Filing paper returns through the mail remains an option for those who prefer to stick with tradition and/or lack ready access to the Internet. IRS forms and instructions are available for printing at www.IRS.gov. As in years past, many libraries, post offices and some other public locations carry the most commonly used IRS tax documents " call first to confirm availability. For those with mobility challenges, the IRS Forms and Publications hotline is a convenient way to obtain needed tax paperwork, with an order turnaround time that's typically within a couple of weeks. The hotline number 1-800-TAX-FORM (829-3676) is open weekdays from 7 am to 7 pm (local time).
Login above or Register to comment.
0 Total Comments