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14 Tax Tips You Really Need to Know About

What you should know before April 17—including this year's new filing deadline date.

News release from the Internal Revenue Service:

The Internal Revenue Service today offered taxpayers 14 Tax Tips with two weeks remaining before the tax deadline. Those who need more time to file should submit Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual income Tax Return to the IRS electronically or by paper no later than April 17, 2012.

“The IRS receives a lot of tax returns in April,” said IRS Spokesman Raphael Tulino. “So take the time to file an accurate the first time and don’t miss out on anything such as the Earned Income Tax Credit that could boost your refund.”

Below are 14 quick tips for Loma Linda and Redlands residents to consider as the deadline looms (And don't forget to vote in our on the best place to get your taxes done at the last minute):

  1. The tax deadline this year is Tuesday, April 17 and not April 15 because April 15 falls on a Sunday in 2012 and April 16 is a District of Columbia-based holiday called Emancipation Day.
  2. Visit the IRS Website. More than 322 million visits were made to IRS.gov in 2011. Download, file, read, get answers, contact information and check the latest news ... plus much more.
  3. Consider the ease and convenience of E-file and check into IRS Free File. About 80 percent of all returns are now e-filed. For those who make $57,000 or less, free tax software is offered through a private-public partnership with various software manufacturers called IRS Free File. Also, with the Fillable Forms feature, taxpayers can file a federal return for free no matter their income level.
  4. Choose Direct Deposit. Prepare a paperless tax return with direct deposit chosen for refunds.
  5. Avoid Common Errors such as transposed Social Security numbers, math errors or not signing the return.
  6. Don’t procrastinate. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute.
  7. Request an automatic six month extension of time to file. Easy to do through tax software, a paper form 4868 or electronically through payment services.
  8. Choose a tax preparer wisely. No matter who prepares a tax return, the taxpayer is responsible for the information on it once signed.
  9. Get a Fresh Start. For those who are struggling and cannot full pay, IRS offers quick and easy solutions such as online installment agreements to make the process less stressful. The IRS would encourage a struggling taxpayer to file their return, pay some of what’s owed and then contact the agency about their situation.
  10. Check into Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Free tax preparation is available at hundreds of Southern California and Nevada VITA sites through April 17. Key qualifying requirements include income $50,000 or less and a simple return. Taxpayers can call 211 or check IRS.gov, keyword search VITA, to find one.
  11. Avoid scams and schemes that seem too good to be true. For example, the IRS is not going to initiate contact with taxpayers with an email alerting them to a refund. Also, be wary of unscrupulous promoters who may tempt senior citizens and other taxpayers into filing tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds.
  12. Don’t miss out! Taxpayers should generally claim all deductions and/or credits that they are eligible for to lower their tax bill.
  13. Itemize or Standard Deduction? Taxpayers should take the one that affords them paying the least tax.
  14. Social Security Income. Generally, if Social Security benefits were a taxpayer’s only income in 2011, those benefits are not taxable and a tax return probably does not need to be filed. 

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