The clock is ticking to file your 2017 federal individual income tax return. As of Thursday, you’ll have 69 days before the April 17 filling deadline.
Most taxpayers have no reason to procrastinate: The Internal Revenue Service expects more than 70 percent of the 155 million tax returns filed this year to result in a refund. Last year’s average refund was $2,895.
And for the average person earning wage-only income and taking the standard deduction, filing can be easy and cheap – free in some cases.
The IRS’ Free File program, for example, allows families with incomes less than $66,000 to file federal returns at no cost through brand-name software offered by the IRS’ commercial partners.
Nearly three quarters of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for the free program. Those earning more than $66,000 may use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.
Low-income and elderly taxpayers can get help through the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs and the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide initiative.
AARP Tax-Aide District Coordinator John Fredo said IRS-certified volunteers in the Augusta area helped prepare 3,000 returns last year.
“The site is open to everybody – it’s not just AARP members,” he said. “A lot of the lower income folks come to us because its free, and we electronically file for free as well.”
The filing process is more streamlined this year because the IRS’ free-file partner, Evans-based TaxSlayer, is in the second year of a $26 million contract. Fredo said taxpayers who used the service last year will see their information pre-populated on the electronic forms.
Last year the typical refund was issued in less than 21 days. However, taxpayers receiving an earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit will not get theirs until Feb. 27 to give the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. This applies to the entire refund, the IRS says, not just the portion involving the credits.
Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Oct. 15 to file.
Financial advisors say that even those who end up owing money are better off filing sooner rather than later so they can make arrangements to pay.
Preparers remind taxpayers to have all tax-related documents in order, including the W-2 wage form from your employer; Form 1099s for any interest and dividend income you receive; the Form 1098 that shows the interest paid on your mortgage; and any receipts for medical services, childcare expenses, self-employment expenses and charitable contributions.
Those seeing a preparer for the first time might also want to bring their previous year’s return, a photo ID and Social Security cards for all dependents.
The IRS expects about 90 percent of returns to be filed electronically, which it says is the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or email@example.com.