Deadline looming for tax filings

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NASHVILLE: Seventeen days remain to file your 2017 tax returns.  With that in mind, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs offers Tennesseans  tips to navigate the income tax filing process.

1. Get your refund fast through direct deposit. 

Did you know that your income tax refund can be electronically deposited into your financial account for free? The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can automatically deposit your refund into up to three separate accounts, if you set up direct deposit when you file your return. Direct deposit gives you access to your refund faster than a paper check.

2. File your tax return for free. 

If your income is $54,000 or less, if you are 60 years old or older, or if you have a disability or speak limited English, you can generally get free tax return preparation assistance at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location near you. In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those 60 and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

If you decide to do it yourself:

  • If your adjusted gross income is $66,000 or less, you can use any one of several major tax return preparation software products, offered through the Free File Alliance, to prepare and file your return for free. The Free File Alliance is a nonprofit coalition of industry-leading tax software companies partnered with the IRS to help taxpayers prepare and e-file their federal tax returns for free. If your adjusted gross income is more than $66,000, you can still download free tax filing forms from the IRS’s website.
  • There are many easy-to-use tax return preparation software products on the market that will help you walk through the tax return filing process step-by-step. These are not free, but they may be less expensive than paying someone to file your return for you.

3. Beware of potential tax fraud.

Tax fraud has become increasingly common, but there are several steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • File electronically and request that your refund be deposited directly into your account. Direct deposit avoids the possibility that your check could be stolen. However, beware of this new twist on a scam involving erroneous tax refund deposits.
  • Vet your Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you decide to hire a CPA to prepare your taxes, verify his or her license with the Tennessee Board of Accountancy at www.verify.tn.gov. You may also contact the Tennessee Board of Accountancy at accountancy.board@tn.gov or 888-453-6150 to find out if complaints or disciplinary actions have been filed against him/her. Learn more at www.tn.gov/regboards.
  • Use ID theft prevention measures. Don’t carry your social security card with you. Also, don’t carry your Medicare card unless you’re going to a doctor for the first time.
  • Check your credit report. You can review your credit report for free every 12 months at www.AnnualCreditReport.com, or by calling 877-322-8228.
  • Stay alert for scam phone calls from criminals intent on stealing your money or your identity.

The IRS will NOT:

Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.

Demand immediate payment without first sending you a bill in the mail and giving you an opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

Require you to use a specific payment method for taxes, like a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.

Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft involving your income tax return, report it to the IRS.

Consumers can find more detailed information about tax refund scams, by visiting the IRS website.
For more consumer tips and resources, visit www.tn.gov/consumer.

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About Author

Christine Anne Piesyk has been a journalist for more than 45 years. Her credits include positions as Editor in Chief, Managing Editor, Staff Writer specializing in education, leisure living, food and arts and entertainment. She was co-producer, writer and on air persona for the Entertainment Review for 25 years. In "retirement," she finds herself working on online websites and as a book editor. In her other life, she is a costumer in her daughter's company, Gemini Dream Designs.

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