IRS’ E-filing period opens for taxpayers

Tax assistance sites to open in coming weeks

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) kicked off the 2012 tax season by opening e-filing at its web site on Tuesday, as local tax professionals are ramping up for another busy season.

Millions around the country are expected to e-file this year — many of them receiving assistance from the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. Locally, thousands of taxpayers could be served through the program, which provides support and free tax advisement for lower-income individuals and families.

Andre’ Re, of McDonough, will coordinate a new VITA site in the area, at the Stockbridge Assembly of God Church, located at 3910 North Henry Blvd., in Stockbridge. The site will be open each Saturday — beginning Feb. 4, and ending April 14 —from 8:30 a.m., until 12:30 p.m.

Tax assistant Re, says that taxpayers with household incomes, in 2011, of $50,000 or less, who are 60 or older, or who have a disability, are generally eligible for the IRS’ free tax preparation assistance.

Re, who also is a 30-year tax professional and member of the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council, stressed that taxpayers be prepared to have their income taxes filed by bringing in all of their records for the current year and the prior year. He added that preparers at his site will be able to file income taxes from previous years, also.

The veteran tax professional urges local taxpayers to file on time, even if they believe they have to pay. “Whatever you do, if you can’t pay, be sure you file on time because the penalty for not filing on time is severe,” said Re.

The IRS offers assistance for those who are struggling to pay their taxes. The agency’s “Fresh Start” Program provides relief to individuals and small businesses by making it easier to get liens released in certain situations. The program also allows some taxpayers to apply for payment plans and installment agreements, if they need more time to pay their taxes.

In order to reduce costs, and due to the growth in electronic filing, the IRS no longer automatically sends out paper tax forms, according to IRS Spokesman Dan Boone.

Boone said nearly 80 percent of all returns filed last year were e-filed, prompting the cost-saving measure. But for taxpayers who still want to use paper forms, he said, they can get them at www.IRS.gov, or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM. Forms are also available at IRS taxpayer assistance centers and at some libraries and post offices.

“Using IRS E-file to prepare and file can help ensure that you don’t miss any new tax breaks, and will eliminate most errors,” said Boone. “Plus, it speeds up your refund and gives you confirmation that the IRS got your tax return.”

The IRS reported that e-file has already surpassed one billion returns processed, with more than 112 million income tax returns e-filed last year.

Boone pointed out that, while the IRS has gone electronic and encourages e-filing and e-payment of taxes, the agency will never e-mail someone about their taxes.

“The IRS will never initiate contact with you by e-mail,” he said. “Unsolicited e-mails that appear to be from the IRS are usually dangerous identity-theft scams. Also, if you get a suspicious contact by mail, by phone or in person from someone claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment of taxes or wanting private information, call the IRS to verify that it’s authentic.”

VITA Site Coordinator Re encourages taxpayers to use the free tax preparation services. He said simple returns take less than a half an hour, depending on the volume. His site accepts walk-ins, on a first come, first served basis. Also, there will be a Spanish language interpreter by appointment only. To make an appointment, call (770) 898-0075.

To learn more, visit the IRS web site at www.IRS.org. To learn more about other local VITA sites, visit www.atlantaprosperity.org.