November 17, 2017

Archives for March 2013

Tax Season is in full swing!

Have you filed your 2012 Income Tax return yet? Or do you wait till the last week because you have so many receipts and expenses that you want to itemize and need more time to gather all the documents?

 

Volunteer Income Tax preparation program

For the past 7 years, I have prepared tax returns as a volunteer in the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. All volunteers have to pass several tests before they are allowed to participate in the program. Local colleges and community organizations partner with the IRS to provide free income tax returns to people that earn less than $51,000 and need help completing their tax return.

I became a volunteer while studying for my Bachelors degree wanting to get real life experience in an area that was part of my education. Now I have a fulltime employment as a senior accountant at a private corporation, I want to use my knowledge and expertise to help others in an area that for many people is complex and boring. In my view, taking classes and studying for the annual tests keep my skills sharp and increase my understanding of tax matters such as Earned Income Tax Credit or Education Credit. VITA volunteers can assist in filing of Form 1040 and schedules, however specific elements of certain forms can be out of scope as not all volunteers have completed the advanced certification level.

The most used tax form

So, if your salary falls below the above amount you can get your 2012 tax return done for free at one of the participating locations which are often at libraries, community centers or schools. You can find a list of VITA sites in Broward county on this website: http://www.cscbroward.org/eitc.aspx or dial 211.

 

What you need to bring

Before heading out to one of the sites it is good to take a look at the following list of items:

  • Proof of identification – Picture ID
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependen
    ts
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms. (from IRS.gov)

All returns prepared at the VITA site are reviewed by a specially trained site coordinator or supervisor before the return is electronically filled. These reviewers have extensive experience and catch any errors. Most volunteers are people that like to help others and do this in their spare time. At some sites you can make appointments, but most sites are open only for certain hours and provide tax help on first-come, first-serve basis. Since the utmost attention is given to each client and their tax return, at busy times you might have to wait a bit.

 

Identity protection

Last year, many newspapers and other media reported about increased numbers of tax returns filed with social security numbers that had been stolen. Here is a link to a presentation on this subject matter for professional service providers such as CPA’s, tax preparers, financial advisors or attorneys.

 

Some ID protection programs can assist people in discovering suspicious activity and help them when they are a victim of ID Theft. Nowadays, just being careful is not enough anymore.  ID theft can happen in many ways, so the more protection, the better.

My advice: Take charge of protecting your identity.  The Federal Trade Commission has helpful information on their website http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0272-how-keep-your-personal-information-secure .

If you prefer assistance then find a trusted and stable provider that monitors the different types of information for fraudulent activity. Better safe than sorry.

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