The Internal Revenue Service opened the 2014 filing season by highlighting online services and encouraging taxpayers to check out tax benefits such as the often-overlooked Earned Income Tax Credit.
Taxpayers have until Tuesday, April 15, to file their 2013 tax returns and pay any tax due. The IRS expects to receive more than 148 million individual tax returns this year, including 439,000 from Delaware taxpayers, and more than four out of five returns are now filed electronically.
About three out of four filers typically get refunds, and the IRS issues more than nine in 10 of these refunds in less than 21 days. E-file, when combined with direct deposit, is the fastest way to get a refund. More than three out of four refund recipients now choose direct deposit.
“Tens of millions of people will file their taxes in the next few weeks, and we encourage taxpayers to go to IRS.gov as the best place to get quick help,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We continue to add features and make it more user-friendly to help taxpayers.”
The IRS also has updated and strengthened its systems to help protect against refund fraud and identity theft.
Feb. 14 also marked the annual Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day. Although an estimated four out of five eligible workers and families get this key work incentive, one in five miss out on EITC; either they don’t claim it when filing, or they don’t file a tax return at all because their income is below the filing threshold. Koskinen said, “There are easy ways to find out more about this credit, either by visiting IRS.gov or using Free File or a software package.”
Online tools at IRS.gov now available
Aimed at individuals and families who made $51,567 or less last year, the EITC varies by income, family size and filing status. People can see if they qualify by visiting IRS.gov and answering a few questions using the EITC Assistant, a special online tool. Eligible taxpayers can also use another helpful online resource, the VITA Site Locator tool, to locate one of nearly 13,000 community-based volunteer tax sites.
Tele-Tax helps taxpayers see if they qualify for various tax benefits, such as the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit for eligible families, the American Opportunity Tax Credit for parents and college students, the saver’s credit for low- and moderate-income workers saving for retirement, and energy credits for homeowners making qualifying energy-saving home improvements. The automated IRS services can also help home-based businesses check out the new, simplified option for claiming the home office deduction, a straightforward computation that allows eligible taxpayers to claim $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of $1,500, instead of filling out a 43-line form (Form 8829) with often-complex calculations.
When taxpayers are ready to fill out and file their returns, another online option, available exclusively on IRS.gov, enables anyone to e-file their returns for free. Free File offers two free electronic filing options: brand-name tax software or online Fillable Forms. Taxpayers who make $58,000 or less can choose free options from 14 commercial software providers. There’s no income limit for the second option, Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, which is best suited to people who are comfortable preparing their own tax returns.
More online tools provide taxpayers with valuable assistance long after tax season ends. One of the most popular is Where’s My Refund?, a tool available on IRS.gov that enables taxpayers to track the status of their refund. Initial information will normally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mails a paper return to the IRS.
For taxpayers whose concern isn’t a refund, but rather, a tax bill they can’t pay, the Online Payment Agreement tool can help them determine whether they qualify for an installment agreement with the IRS. And for those whose tax obligation is even more serious, the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier can help them determine if they qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement with the IRS that settles their tax liability for less than the full amount owed.
The IRS Withholding Calculator helps employees make sure the amount of income tax taken out of their pay is neither too high nor too low. This tool can be particularly useful to taxpayers who, after filling out their tax returns, find that the refund or balance due was higher than expected.
Tax help through YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr
The IRS also offers more than 100 short instructional videos, tax tips and other useful resources year-round through a variety of social media platforms. They include: YouTube, available in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language; Twitter feeds in English and Spanish at @IRSnews, @IRSenEspanol and @IRStaxpros; and Tumblr at www.internalrevenueservice.tumblr.com.
The IRS only uses social media tools to share information with the public, not to answer personal tax or account questions. And the IRS reminds taxpayers to never post confidential information, such as a Social Security number, on social media sites.