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April 15 deadline approaches
Storm sufferers to get relief; stimulus payouts to start

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

With the April 15 filing deadline fast-approaching, some storm-battered residents in the Southern Crescent area stand to get relief from the federal government this tax season.

The victims of storms passing through north Georgia the weekend of March 14 may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

"We realize that the IRS and tax obligations are the last thing on the minds of many Georgia taxpayers right now. [And] people are concerned about their homes and businesses," said Mark Green, IRS spokesman.

The federal government has, therefore, declared Bartow, Burke, DeKalb, Floyd, Fulton, Jefferson, and Polk counties a presidential disaster area. The IRS is postponing certain deadlines until May 19 for taxpayers who live in, or have a businesses, in the disaster area.

The disaster declaration means those who reside within Henry and Clayton counties and have a business in counties identified by the federal government, may qualify for individual assistance. Taxpayers not in the covered disaster area, but whose books, records, or tax professionals' offices are in the covered disaster area, also are entitled to the postponement relief.

The postponement, according to IRS spokesman Green, applies to return filing, tax payment, and certain other time-sensitive acts that are otherwise due between March 14 and May 19.

Additionally, the IRS will waive the failure to deposit penalties for employment and excise deposits due on, or after, March 14, and on, or before March 31, as long as the deposits are made by March 31. Individuals may also deduct personal property losses not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. Contact the IRS disaster hotline at (866) 562-5227, or visit the IRS web site.

2004 income tax refunds

Unclaimed refunds totaling $1.2 billion await some 1.3 million people, who did not file federal income tax returns for the year 2004. In Georgia, that equates to nearly $38 million in unclaimed refunds for 44,000 people.

The IRS estimates half of the people who could claim refunds for the 2004 tax year would receive more than $552. To collect the money, however, those people have to file a 2004 return with an IRS office by April 15 of this year. According to Green, some had too little income in 2004 to require filing a tax return, and some may be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

Green said that in cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. When returns are not filed during that time, the refund money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury. For 2004 returns, the window closes April 15.

Green said there is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return that qualifies for a refund.

"Time is running out if you want to get your refund," he said. "Taxpayers should review their statements for refundable credits and withholdings. We want all Georgia taxpayers to get the refund they're due."

Refund checks will be held for taxpayers who did not file 2005 or 2006 returns and will be applied to money owed to the IRS, or to unpaid child support and federal debts, such as student loans.

Those who file returns more than three years late would still be able to file, but the resulting refunds will only be applied to taxes owed, and not for refunds.

"A lot of folks don't realize, too, that you can amend your return from the prior three years," said Jason Campbell, H&R Block district manager for Henry and Clayton counties.

Taxpayers can file amended returns for up to three years prior to the current year and receive tax credits available during those years.

For instance, taxpayers who could have benefited from "Hurricane Katrina" credits about two years ago, but did not file for the credits, may still be eligible for those credits in an amended return.

H&R Block offers a program called "A Second Look." The program, according to Campbell, gives taxpayers and their accountants an opportunity to look back through their previous three years of returns to assess whether there were any missed tax credits.

Campbell says about 87 percent of all tax returns have been in some way amend-able with an average of up to $1,300 in available refunds.

Stimulus payouts

start May 2

Starting May 2, the IRS will begin sending 130 million economic stimulus payments. The initial round of weekly payments will be completed by early July.

Stimulus payments will be made by direct deposit to people who chose to receive their 2007 income tax refunds through direct deposit directly through the IRS. All others will receive their economic stimulus payments in the form of a paper check.

"Stimulus payments will be sent out to all qualifying Georgians in the order of the last two numbers of the Social Security number used on their tax return," Green said.

Taxpayers must file their tax returns in order to receive an economic stimulus payment and should remember to be sure to have their proper mailing address on file with the IRS on the 2007 tax return.

Some lower-income workers and Social Security recipients and veterans, who don't normally need to file a tax return, will have to file in order to receive a stimulus payment. "Those who are not required to file, have to file in order to get the stimulus," Campbell said. "Folks, get your returns filed before April 15, otherwise it's going to cause delays."

The IRS expects to make about 34 million payments within the first three weeks after the payment schedule begins.

Stimulus Payment

Schedule

Direct Deposit Payments

SS#: 00 - 20, May 2

SS#: 21 - 75, May 9

SS#: 76 - 99, May 16

Paper Check Payments

SS#: 00 - 09, May 16

SS#: 10 - 18, May 23

SS#: 19 - 25, May 30

SS#: 26 - 38, June 6

SS#: 39 - 51, June 13

SS#: 52 - 63, June 20

SS#: 64 - 75, June 27

SS#: 76 - 87, July 4

SS#: 88 - 99, July 11