Last-minute tax saving tips
What to keep in mind when filing your income taxes
(KSAT) There's just a few weeks left to get your taxes filed before this year's April 18 deadline. Whether you are planning on hiring a tax preparer or plan to get your return together yourself, there's a few last-minute things you'll want to think about.
According to H&R Block, six of 10 taxpayers pay someone else to prepare their taxes.
“I had always done it myself and when I bought a home, I figured I needed someone I could trust,” taxpayer Diane Canion said.
Canion used the same tax preparer for several years and felt confident that things were being done right. Then she was audited for her 2012 return and found that she owed the Internal Revenue Service about $2,700.
“Ultimately, the individual, the taxpayer themselves, are responsible for the return,” IRS Supervisory Special Agent Troy Caldron said.
The IRS recommends the following when choosing a tax preparer:
-Avoid preparers who charge a fee based on a percentage of your refund or promise you a larger refund than others.
-Search for a preparer who will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other concerns.
-Always make sure that your refund is sent directly to you or deposited into your bank account. Do not allow your refund to be deposited into the preparer’s bank account.
-Never sign a blank return or use a preparer who asks you to do so. Also be on the lookout for incomplete returns.
-Review your return before signing it and ask questions if anything is not clear. Your signature, whether electronic or ink, indicates under penalty of perjury that everything on the return is true and accurate.
-Make sure your preparer signs the return and includes his or her Preparer Tax Identification Number, also known as a PTIN.
-If something doesn't feel right or if you are uncomfortable for any reason, find another tax preparer with whom you are comfortable.
The U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division and the IRS also have a joint website that lists injunctions against fraudulent tax return preparers and tax-fraud promoters.
Injunctions bar a person or business from engaging in specified misconduct or from preparing tax returns for others, according to the site.
Canion’s audit was forgiven after she wrote to the IRS, but then her 2013 return was also flagged for $2,100.
“I can’t believe it’s happening again. I don’t make that much money,” Canion said.
This time, she’s expected to pay up and doesn’t want others to find themselves in a similar situation.
“Find somebody that’s reputable,” Canion said. “I’m still looking for someone to do my taxes, apparently.”
Canion said that she’s filing an official complaint about her preparer to the IRS, which the agency recommends in situations like hers.
If you're planning to file your taxes yourself-- there are still some tips experts recommend you pay attention to:
--Double check your returns for math errors.
--Make sure everything is properly signed.
--Check that your Social Security number is correct.
--Consider filing online using direct deposit, if you're due a refund.
Taking these precautions can help you make sure your last minute filing isn't rejected-- or that important deductions, credits and exemptions aren't missed.
Here are some last-minute deductions to check out if you qualify for, as well:
• Penalties for early withdrawal of savings
• Alimony paid
• Tuition and fees
• Student loan interest
• Prescription eyeglasses, contacts, and hearing aids
• Breastfeeding supplies
• Crutches, canes, and orthopedic shoes
• Medical transportation costs
• Work-related educational expenses
• Teacher’s educational expenses
• Cost of alcohol or drug abuse treatments
• Charitable contributions
• Local and state income taxes
• Personal property taxes or real estate taxes
• Points paid for a mortgage or refinancing a home
• Unreimbursed employee business expenses
• Mileage and other expenses associated with volunteer work
• Casualty and theft losses
• Tax preparation software and fees
• Gambling losses
• Some moving expenses
Some people think the earlier you file, the more likely you'll receive a refund-- but that's not true. If you're due a refund, you'll get it.
The IRS does say that 61 percent of late filers end up owing money, but that's more likely because they're procrastinating having to shell out the cash they owe.
Keep in mind, filing an extension doesn't mean you have more time to pay-- you still have to pay your estimated taxes on time in order to avoid a penalty.
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