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Filing season mixed bag for taxpayers

Free tax prep available this month

JONESBORO — Changes to federal laws will be a relief to some taxpayers and a strain to others.

More than 3.7 million Georgia taxpayers logged online to file their income tax returns last year and benefited from credits and deductions that reduced their tax liability.

But lighter paychecks over the past few weeks serve as reminders that tax law, like the payroll tax holiday, has changed.

Internal Revenue Service spokesman Mark Green said some laws were renewed, while others expired this winter to the taxpayer’s benefit and distress.

Green said residents will pay more from their paychecks to Social Security and Medicare. He said the employee tax rate for Social Security is 6.2 percent, up 2 percent from last year because the tax holiday was not extended.

However, residents will find that the standard mileage rate for business use of a car, van, pick-up or panel truck rose a penny per mile this year. The rate is 56.5 cents a mile, up from 55.5 last year.

Green said several deductions that were set to expire this year were reinstated or extended, like the state and local sales tax itemized deduction, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit Qualified tuition and fees and the teacher expense deduction.

Taxpayers can still apply for the one-time $500 home energy credit for qualified purchases like windows, insulation, water heaters and heating and air conditioners.

Tax prep assistance

Clayton State University accounting students are participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance later this month.

The program, hosted by the college of business, will be in Clayton Hall at 2000 Clayton State Blvd. Building 10.

Those who are eligible to receive the free tax preparation services are taxpayers who make under $49,000 a year and want help with their 2012 personal income taxes using Forms 1040EZ, 1040A and simple 1040s.

Dr. Judith Ogden is an associate professor of business law at Clayton State. She is in her 16th year with the VITA program.

She said VITA volunteers are well-trained and help prepare state and federal income tax returns on paper and through e-file methods.

Ogden said the program will be available March 16 and March 23, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., on a first-come, first-served basis. The program does not provide assistance with out-of-state or small business returns, or for those who are self-employed.

Taxpayers are asked to meet in the main lobby and bring the following items: a photo ID, social security cards (for themselves, their spouses and their dependents), wage and earning statements and a copy of last year’s federal and state income tax returns. Ogden said both spouses must be present to file electronically.