Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tax tips 2016: What advice does the IRS have for taxpayers? Where can I get tax forms?

Tax time is approaching and the Internal Revenue Service is letting taxpayers know what they should be looking out for this tax season.
Of course, this 2016 tax season is really all about the tax year 2015.
When is the deadline?
In Massachusetts it will be April 19 to file a return and pay any tax due, not on April 15, the IRS said. The Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., falls  on Friday, April 15 so the IRS has pushed the deadline back until Monday, April 18. Taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts will have until Tuesday, April 19, because of Patriots Day observances on April 18.
What are my chances of getting a refund?
The IRS expects more than 70 percent of taxpayers to again receive tax refunds this year. Last year, the IRS issued 109 million refunds.
How much money is typically refunded?
The IRS said the average refund last year was $2,797.
What will make a taxpayer's life easier?
The IRS says taxpayers should have all year-end statements in hand before filing returns. This includes Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and for those claiming the premium tax credit, Form 1095-A from the Health Insurance Marketplace.
What is the fastest, safest way for me to get my refund?
Choose e-file and direct deposit, the IRS said. The IRS said it anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. 
Can I file online for free, or do I have to buy commercial software?
The IRSFree File program at IRS.gov began Friday, Jan. 15 and , and the IRS begins accepting and processing all tax returns on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
The software is free to those who qualify. Commercial partners of the IRS offer free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $62,000 or less. Seventy percent of the nation's taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File.
Can I get IRS forms online?
Yes, the IRS provides online fill-able forms, electronic versions of IRS paper forms that taxpayers can use. They are available online at IRS.gov.
Where can I get printed copies of IRS forms? The IRS no longer automatically mails them out to everyone.
You have four options, the IRS said:
1) Printable forms are available online at IRS.gov.
2) Printed forms are available at local IRS Offices. This includes the Springfield office in the old federal building at 1550 Main St. It's open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. but closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. The number is (413) 788-0284.
Addresses for the other IRS offices in Massachusetts can be found here:www.irs.gov/uac/Contact-My-Local-Office-in-Massachusetts.
3) Printed forms are also available at many places in communities, the IRS said. Libraries and post offices offer free tax forms to taxpayers. Some libraries also have copies of commonly requested publications, the IRS said. Many large grocery stores, copy centers and office supply stores have forms you can photocopy or print from a CD.
4) Printed forms can be sent to you if you call the IRS at 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) .

Can I get someone to help me file my taxes without paying?
Yes, The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax help to people who make $54,000 a year or less, people with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns, the IRS said.
Tax assistance programs are run with IRS-certified volunteers. They provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.
Also, Tax Counseling for the Elderly program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older. Tax counseling  specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.
What if I want to hire a tax preparer?
The IRS has a list of hints and things to look for. Among those hints is to only use tax people who have IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number. Anyone with a valid 2015 number is authorized to prepare federal tax returns.
What should I know about refund anticipation loans or refund advances?
The IRS wants consumes to know:
By agreeing to a refund-related financial product, taxpayers will not receive their refund from the IRS as the IRS will send their refund to the financial institution or lender. Advise taxpayers that refund ancicipation loans are interest bearing loans and not a quicker way of receiving their refunds from the IRS. If the financial institution does not receive a direct deposit within the expected time frame for whatever reason, the taxpayers may be liable to the lender for additional interest and other fees, as applicable for the RAL or other tax refund-related product.
What if I need a tax transcript for student loans or to buy a house?
The IRS has a Get Transcript Tool available online. Taxpayers should allow five to 10 days from the time they make the request to receive it by mail.
What about identity theft?
The IRS said it has made a number of changes to thwart identity thieves. Most of these changes are invisible to taxpayers. But the agency warns there will be new security requirements when preparing your taxes online, especially when taxpayers  sign in to your tax software account.
What do I need to do to comply with the Affordable Care Act?
The IRS said that the Affordable Care Act requires that a taxpayer and each member of the family either has qualifying health coverage for each month of the year, qualifies for an exemption, or makes an individual shared responsibility payment when filing their tax returns.
For most folks, that means simply checking a box on the tax return form. More detail is available at IRS.gov/aca.