With Tax Day around the corner, it’s a good time to highlight the costliest mistakes that tax experts say we make in filing our taxes. Since 2009, United Way has helped some 1.3 million people nationwide save $260 million in filing fees, and bring back more than $1.9 billion in refunds to local communities through MyFreeTaxes.com. United Way of Dodge County also provides free local tax preparation services at the Mantorville Senior Center. Volunteers who are IRS-certified will be able to prepare taxes for you. This program allows you to create an appointment and drop off your tax filing information to be prepared and filed by a volunteer. This is a free service available to Dodge county residents who meet the eligibility requirements.
When filing returns, tax experts offer the following tips to minimize mistakes and maximize your refund this tax season.
1. Choose Carefully
One of the most common mistakes taxpayers make is selecting the wrong filing status. That can affect the credits and deductions you’re eligible for, the value of your standard deduction, and even your tax bracket. When life gets complicated, taxes get more complicated, too.
For example, if a taxpayer with children is getting divorced, they may not be sure if they should file as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” or whether they qualify to file as head of household. MyFreeTaxes can help answer those questions. Use the Helpline to talk to a real person trained by the IRS. MyFreeTaxes’ Helpline is open from 9 am-9 pm daily to clarify things like filing status. Just call 1-866-698-9435.
2. Check Yourself
Always double-check the basics on your tax returns and make sure your name and the names of your spouse and/or dependents and Social Security numbers are right. Make sure to double-check the information you’ve pulled from your W-2 — transposing numbers or entering numbers in the wrong fields are common errors.
3. Find What You’ve Got Coming
Nearly 5 million Americans leave an average of $3,000 each on the table each year by failing to claim common deductions and exemptions. MyFreeTaxes automatically screens for credit and deduction eligibility for things like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit and also lets you claim any missed stimulus payments.
Nearly 20 percent of eligible people don’t claim the EITC. Depending on income and number of kids, that could mean leaving $500 to $6,000 on the table. You may think you can’t get the EITC if you don’t earn enough money to file a return. Wrong. The EITC is a refundable credit, so even if you don’t owe taxes, you can still get the EITC.
4. School Yourself
Education credits are another often-overlooked benefit. Depending on the kind of academic program, what year the student is in, income, and other restrictions, a student may use the American Opportunity Credit for up to $2,500 or the Lifetime Learning Credit for up to $2,000.
United Way of Dodge County is committed to ensuring that people in our community can easily and accurately file their taxes to receive the refunds and credits they deserve. Go to myfreetaxes.com to get started or call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment to meet with a local preparer.