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Customers in a rush as tax deadline nears

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By Jimmie Earls

The flowers in the garden are starting to bloom, winter’s chill seems like a faded memory and college basketball just wrapped things up for the year. So you know what time of the year it is, right? Of course, it’s tax time!

What? Taxes?

Yes, there’s one week left to file your tax returns, and if you’re like a lot of people, you’re waiting until the last minute to file. According to Darlene Carrico, the branch manager of H&R Block in Springfield, there are a variety of reasons why people procrastinate during tax season.

“A lot of them are larger tax returns and they’ve taken so long to get their information together,” said Carrico. “Then of course, you have some people who feel like they cannot pay to have their taxes done.”

Those receiving a tax refund can opt to have their preparation fees deducted from their refund check, thus eliminating any upfront costs.

Carrico added, “There’s also a lot of people who try to do it online and then they get themselves deeper and deeper in trouble. That’s when they come in saying they need some help.”

Another key to making the filing process go smoothly is to have all of your documentation in order.

“Waiting until the last minute gives us very little time for research,” said Carrico. “We need as much as they can possibly find. This year, the IRS is requiring businesses that receive a 1099 form to have at least one expense on it.”

Carrico has seen some interesting things brought in by customers during her 19 years preparing taxes.

“I’ve had people bring in two garbage bags full of stuff,” she said. “They don’t know what to save or throw away. I’ve had people bring in all their bank statements and so forth. We help them get an idea of what is deductible.”

Aside from the help offered from professional tax services and accountants, there are just some people who wait until the last minute or don’t file at all for a particular year.

Carrico added, “We’ve had people come in who haven’t filed taxes in three years and they decide they want to do it all at one time. You can go back as far as five years if you have not filed.”

According to the Internal Revenue Service’s Web site at www.irs.gov, you are required to file a return if you can answer yes to any of the following questions:

• Did you have Federal taxes withheld from your pension and wages for this tax year and wish to get a refund back?

• Are you entitled to the Earned Income Tax Credit or did you receive Advance Earned Income Credit for this tax year?

• Were you self-employed with earnings of more than $400.00?

• Did you sell your home?

• Will you owe any special tax on a qualified retirement plan (including an individual retirement account (IRA) or medical savings account (MSA)? You may owe tax if you:

• Received an early distribution from a qualified plan

• Made excess contributions to your IRA or MSA

• Were born before July 1, 1937, and you did not take the minimum required distribution from your qualified retirement plan.

• Received a distribution in the excess of $160,000 from a qualified retirement plan.

• Will you owe Social Security and Medicare tax on tips you did not report to your employer?

• Will you owe uncollected social security and Medicare or Railroad retirement (RRTA) tax on tips you reported to your employer?

• Will you be subject to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)? (The tax law gives special treatment to some kinds of income and allows special deductions and credit for some kinds of expenses.)

• Will you owe recapture tax?

• Are you a church employee with income in wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security or Medicare taxes?

If someone owes money to the IRS or state, they shouldn’t stress about making a large payment. The IRS will work with those looking to set up an installment plan to make payments. The IRS is also allowing people a six-month extension in some cases, pushing the filing date back to Oct 15.

Carrico is preparing for a last-minute rush of people looking to beat the deadline next Wednesday.

“There’ll be probably 15 to 20 people in the last two days who are in a rush to get their taxes out,” she said. “It doesn’t dawn on them sometimes. They’ll say ‘Oh, I’ve got one day or two days left’ and then they panic and they don’t know what to do.”

Preparation and planning will make tax time a less taxing time on your emotions and possibly your bank account.