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Archive for Sunday, January 29, 2006

Local tax preparers offer tips for filing

January 29, 2006

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It's time to start thinking about the dreaded chore of filing income tax forms.

Relax. It's not going to be as hard as you might think. Especially if you have a computer and can purchase a tax filing computer program.

"I would discourage people from filling out forms by hand because most everybody has a computer and there are some pretty inexpensive tax programs out there," said Randy Renfro, a certified public accountant and partner at Roark and Associates P.A., 3504 Westridge Drive.

Using a computer program reduces chances of mistakes, Renfro said. And electronically filing income tax forms also speeds up refund returns, he said.

"The IRS is trying to get everyone to e-file," he said. "Some people don't like to have their personal information floating around out on the Internet but they (IRS) have been doing this for several years now, and they have some pretty good controls so that there's not any risk of information getting out in the public."

There are not many major changes in this year's federal tax code.

One change will affect filers who will be claiming a child for income credits.

"You have to be able to prove you are the mother or the father," said Kathleen Nikodym, office manager at H&R Block, 520 W. 23rd St. "They have a specific definition of a child, and you have to fill out some forms to see if you can claim a child."

Another change concerns mileage deductions. The mileage rate changed from 38.5 cents per mile to 40.5 cents, Nikodym said.

Tax preparers suggest waiting until after Jan. 31 to file your taxes to make sure you have all of the proper W-2 and other forms you will need. Businesses don't usually mail those out until the end of the month. You can, however, make a list of what forms you need to receive and check them off when they arrive in the mail, said April Lynch, general manager at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service office, 951 E. 23rd St.

Research your options for filing, Lynch said. Some tax services offer free tax advice, including Jackson Hewitt. They also double-check returns for free.

"If you have questions or if you are stuck, you want to consult help, and not necessarily would you have to pay somebody to do it," Lynch said.

Jackson Hewitt has many clients who file well ahead of the April 15 deadline, Lynch said.

And don't be afraid to get a professional preparer if you want to explore all options for getting a refund, Nikodym said. Many people don't realize what they can claim, she said.

"A lot of people don't claim everything that they can claim because they are afraid of the IRS, but they should get all the money that they deserve," Nikodym said.

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