It's that time of year again – tax season is upon us.
Federal income taxes are due to the IRS on April 17, just over a month from now. Congress overhauled the tax code last year, but Raphael Tulino with the IRS said those changes do not impact the tax return due in April.
He said the changes, which include the elimination of the personal exemption and an increase of the standard deduction, among other important changes, will make things much different for next year's tax day.
As for this year's tax day, Tara Sullivan with the IRS's enforcement wing, said it is important to be compliant with your taxes even if you haven't been for several years.
"It is always best to get yourself into compliance the sooner the better," she said. "From a criminal perspective, we generally like when someone is compliant and are less likely to go forward with a criminal prosecution if someone has come in on their own to try to straighten out their situation."
However, Sullivan warns that while most tax preparers are trustworthy, there are some bad actors out there and it is important that people know who is preparing their taxes.
She said that when you sign a tax return -- whether you prepared it or not -- you're swearing that the information in it is truthful. That means you could be held liable for mistakes or fraud committed by your tax preparer.
Sullivan also had words of warning about a tax scam. For several years the IRS has been warning people that the IRS doesn't make phone calls or sends emails demanding tax money, which is a common scam.
Now, scammers are hacking into the files of tax preparers, filing tax returns on behalf of clients, then when their return is deposited into a client's bank account, they call the client and claim the money was deposited onerously and demand the money back.
She suggests people file early to avoid being caught in the scam.
Gather your records: Round up any documents you will need when filing your taxes, including receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you will be claiming on your tax return. Store them in a safe place.
Report all your income: You will need all your Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statements, and 1099 income statements to report your income when you file your tax return. To ensure you don’t misplace them, add them to your other records.
Get answers to questions: Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool available on the IRS website to find answers to your questions about tax credits and deductions.
Use Free File: There is at least one option available for everyone to prepare and e-file a tax return at no cost. Let IRS Free File do the work for you with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It's available exclusively at IRS.gov. If your income was $57,000 or less, you qualify to use free tax software. If your income was higher, or you are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. Visit IRS.gov/freefile to review your options.
Try IRS e-file: IRS e-file is the best way to file an accurate tax return. It’s safe, easy and the way most taxpayers file their return. Last year, more than 80 percent of taxpayers used IRS e-file. Many tax preparers are now required to use e-file. If you owe taxes, you have the option to file early and pay by April 15.
Weigh your filing options: You have several options for filing your tax return. You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax preparer. You may be eligible for free, face-to-face help at a volunteer site. Weigh your options and choose the one that works best for you.
Use direct deposit: Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and safest way for you to get your refund.
Visit the IRS website: The IRS website at IRS.gov is a great place to find everything you need to file your tax return. This includes many online tools, filing tips, answers to frequently asked questions, the latest tax law changes, forms and publications.
Remember number 17: Check out Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, on the IRS website. It’s a complete tax resource that includes information such as whether you need to file or how to choose your filing status.
Review your return: Don’t rush. We all make mistakes when we rush. Mistakes slow down the processing of your return. Be sure to double check all Social Security numbers and math calculations on your return as these are the most common errors. If you run into a problem, remember the IRS is here to help. Start with IRS.gov.
Raphael Tulino, tax expert, IRS; Tara Sullivan, special agent in charge, Las Vegas, IRS
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