By Johnny Jackson
The Internal Revenue Service will join several community organizations Saturday in putting on a cost-free tax event to help people who need free tax preparation services, a question answered, or a payment schedule arranged.
"The IRS recognizes that many taxpayers in the area may be confronting financial difficulties and need additional help this tax season," said IRS spokesman Mark Green.
The IRS plans to open seven IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers across the state this weekend, including its Atlanta and Macon sites, located at 401 W. Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, and at 640 North Ave., Macon. The sites will offer free tax preparation services and help with tax issues on Saturday, from 9 a.m., to 2 p.m.
There are more than 250 Taxpayer Assistance Centers and 1,000 community partner sites around the country that will open for the Super Saturday event.
"Many people work all week and cannot afford to miss a day's worth of income," Green said. "During these difficult economic times, the IRS wants to help taxpayers. That is why the IRS is making this additional effort on a Saturday, during tax filing season, to service those who need help."
Taxpayers with an annual income of $42,000 or less can receive free assistance to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. Those taxpayers who need to make payments or payment arrangements can also receive help during the event, according to Green.
Locally, Clayton State University's Accounting Club will provide free volunteer tax preparation assistance in a program known as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.
Those making less than $42,000 a year can attend a VITA session this Saturday, from 9 a.m., to 1 p.m., at the university's School of Business, located at 2000 Clayton State Blvd., in Morrow.
Other VITA sessions are available on a first-come, first-served basis from 2 to 4 p.m., on March 25, and from 9 a.m., to 1 p.m., on March 28. The program will only be able to assist with the current year's personal income taxes.
VITA and Taxpayer Assistance Center program participants alike must bring photo identification and Social Security cards for themselves, their spouse and dependents. They must know the birth dates of each person listed on the tax return and have documentation of their wages and earnings (Form W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R) from all of their employers. Tax preparers will also need last year's tax return and bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit in order to help speed up possible tax refund payments.
Taxpayers who pay someone to do their taxes, according to Green, should choose a preparer wisely.
"Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for everything on their return even when it's prepared by someone else," Green said. "In addition, never sign a blank tax return, and choose someone who is creditable, knowledgeable and accountable."
Taxpayers should look for authorized e-file providers through the IRS, he said, adding that reputable preparers will ask multiple questions to determine whether expenses, deductions and other items qualify.
The preparer should also remind clients to keep careful and complete records.
"By doing so, they have your best interest in mind and are trying to help you avoid penalties, interest, or additional taxes that could result from later IRS contacts," Green said.
He said taxpayers should avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of a refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
"Taxpayers should look for whether they are technically proficient in the tax law and doing tax returns," said Ken Syphoe, partner with the Atlanta-based accounting firm of Martin, Harps, Syphoe & Co.
"A lot of it comes with experience," Syphoe said. "There are too many tax laws to memorize, but you've got to find someone who can go get the information."
Taxpayers can report suspected tax fraud and abusive tax preparers to the IRS.
For more information on Clayton State's VITA program, call (678) 466-4527. Visit the IRS web site for more about its nationwide Taxpayer Assistance Center program, or call 1-800-906-9887.
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