With just under a week left until the April 15th deadline, it is now crunch time for filing taxes. If you are one of the many who still have not filed yet and will in the coming days, it will be critical to take measures to ensure that you get every credit you deserve.
It is not just a myth. Countless Americans leave billions of dollars unclaimed each tax season. For many people, this process means a lot of headaches and anxiety. You may be wondering: how can I efficiently get my taxes done with as much accuracy and as little stress as possible?
MyFreeTaxes, which provides free tax preparation and filing assistance, is a collaboration between three non-profit organizations: Goodwill Industries International, The National Disability Institute, and United Way.
To spread the word about the best ways to get taxes filed and to share last-minute tax tips, MyFreeTaxes sponsored an interview opportunity with tax expert Laura Scherler.
Scherler is Director of Income Capacity Building at United Way, and provided unique and helpful insight for all those looking for methods of making filing their taxes easier and less daunting.
Some of Scherler’s tax tips:
Be aware and understand what the deadline means.
While it may still feel like April just started, April 15th is less than a week away. It is in your best interest to do everything you can to get your taxes filed on time, Scherler said. If the need arises, you can apply for an extension to filing your taxes through the IRS website, www.irs.gov/
Keep in mind though, she warned, that this is an “extension to file, not an extension to pay.” If you owe money to the IRS, you will still be expected to pay all or part of it by the general deadline.
Make sure that you understand what credits you may qualify for and how to claim them.
For help with this, Scherler indicated a checklist featured on the IRS website. On the IRS homepage, there is a tab called Credits and Deductions Clicking there takes you to a list of various tax credits and deductions, and their corresponding descriptions and qualifications.
A quick read-through of this information before you start the filing process can make you more aware of what you can claim on your return. Knowing what your options are as you file will help you “be aware” and “be on the lookout” for deductions and credits you deserve, Scherler said.
An example of a credit you should know about is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The credit is given to working families with an income of $62,000 a year or less.
This credit is designed for people living on a lower income, particularly workers with children. Scherler said that the average EITC return is about $2,300, but it can grant those who qualify with up to $6,000.
The IRS website also has an EITC calulator, which can help you figure out whether or not you qualify for the credit, Scherler said.
Find out if you’re eligible to receive free tax services from MyFreeTaxes.
MyFreeTaxes provides free preparation and filing assistance to those filing with an income of $58,000 a year or less. The IRS website also has a list of the many filing services available to the public, but most people using these services will, at the very least, pay to file their state returns.
MyFreeTaxes is the only service that offers completely free tax filing. Many filing services offer free federal tax filing, Scherler said, but for those who qualify, both the federal return and state return filed with MyFreeTaxes are free of charge.
File online if you are able!
Scherler said that there are “two key benefits” to filing your taxes online. The first one is the speed of the return. “Most people (who file online) get their refund in 7 to 10 business days,” Scherler explained.
The second benefit to filing online, according to Scherler, is that the calculations are done and then double-checked for you. Many people are intimidated by or scared of the math and the potential for human error associated with the process, and when you file online, the file assisting program you are using often does a lot of the calculating for you.
“It takes the guesswork out of it,” Scherler said.
Have all of the necessary materials ready when you start the filing process.
What materials should you have prepared when you are filing your taxes? You need any relevant income documents. This includes not only your W-2, but any other document that provides information about any of your income.
Some examples of these that Scherler provided are documentation of interest income, investment information, bank statements, medical expenses, child care, and any other expense information that could result in a refund. She added that MyFreeTaxes has a checklist of important documents to use for filing taxes on their website, www.myfreetaxes.com/
Scherler said it is also important to remember that you will need your Social Security number (as well as your spouse’s, if filing together) and that if you want your refund to directly deposit into your account, you will need your bank account information (including your routing number) as well.
Scherler added that if you still have questions not answered by MyFreeTaxes or by the
IRS website, especially if you are using the MyFreeTaxes software to file, MyFreeTaxes also has a helpline that you can call with any questions regarding the process.
Specialists are on hand to provide help and information, or direct you to other agencies where appropriate. The number for the helpline is 1-855-My-Tx-Help (1-855-698-9435).
Phone Interview with Scherler, Laura. April 8, 2014.
Reviewed April 10, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith