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The tax man is calling

POSTED: April 15, 2013 12:18 a.m.

Hopefully this isn’t news to you, but it’s tax day. If it is news to you, you’d better get hopping on filing your returns. If you must, there’s also an extension available, though you’ll still have to estimate what you owe and pay up.

If you’re not ready

  • You can file an extension using a Free File or Form 4868 and get an automatic six-month extension, but if you just need an extension to make your payment, you may qualify for a payment plan or other relief. Taxpayers getting the extension still must estimate their tax liability and pay any amount due. The extension will avoid the late-filing penalty, usually 5 percent per month based on the unpaid balance. The extension also will reduce or eliminate interest and late-payment penalties that apply to payments made after April 15.
  • If paying what you owe the IRS is the problem, those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to 72 months.
  • Some post offices stay open late on tax day, including the Atlanta office.

Tips

  • Filing electronically often reduces errors since the software does the math for you.
  • If you’re mailing your returns, double-check you’re sending it to the right address. And if you’re filing online, be sure to use the correct routing and account numbers. This will ensure any refund isn’t delayed.
  • If you are mailing, get to the post office early to avoid long lines. Post offices in Hall County will not be open late, according to a spokesman with the U.S. Postal Service. The main Atlanta office, 3900 Crown Road, is always open until midnight if you really get in a bind.
  • Keep a copy of your return.
  • You can check the status of your federal refund with a mobile app, IRS2Go. The app also has tips and reminders during tax season.

Tax scams

The IRS lists these top 10 scams for 2013.

  1. 1. Identity theft: In many cases, this consists of a thief using a taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.
  2. 2. Phishing: This usually involves an email that may look somewhat legitimate but asks for personal information. The IRS never initiates a request for personal information through email.
  3. 3. Return preparer fraud: If using a tax preparer, be sure they sign the returns and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number. Visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro for more information on how to choose a tax preparer and how to identify red flags when making that decision.
  4. 4. Hiding income offshore: Taxpayers can keep money abroad in certain circumstances but must report that or risk significant penalties and fines, as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution.
  5. 5. Free money: Scams have been floating around that promise refunds to low-income residents who may not even need to file a tax return.
  6. 6. Impersonation of charitable organizations: Especially after disasters, some scam artists will pose as the IRS, promising to help residents file casualty loss claims and get refunds. For any questions about disaster-related tax issues, you can call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number, 866-562-5227.
  7. 7. False income and expenses: Claiming income or expenses you didn’t earn in order to get a bigger refund could land you in hot water, repaying the refunds, including interest and penalties, and sometimes you may be prosecuted.
  8. 8. False Form 1099 Refund Claims: A bogus theory floated around says that by filing a 1099-OID you can get access to secret accounts the federal government maintains. It’s not true and if you try it, you could be liable for financial penalties or face criminal prosecution.
  9. 9. Frivolous arguments: Taxpayers can contest their tax liabilities in court, but they should have a good reason. The IRS maintains a list of frivolous arguments taxpayers should avoid.
  10. 10. Falsely claiming zero wages: A substitute form W-2 or “corrected” Form 1099 are sometimes used to illegally lower the amount of taxes owed. Be ready for a $5,000 penalty.

Source: IRS


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