As the April 17 tax filing date draws closer, millions of taxpayers still find themselves somewhere between putting the final touches on their tax return and just starting the process. CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business and a leading global provider of tax, accounting and audit information, software and services (CCHGroup.com), offers taxpayers looking to beat the clock some easy tips for making the most of their taxes.
Tips for Last-Minute Filers
“Even though taxpayers get a little more breathing room to file their taxes this year, many people will still find themselves rushing to get their taxes done. The risk is that they may make mistakes, or overlook ways to maximize their refund,” said CCH Principal Federal Tax Analyst Mark Luscombe, JD, LLM, CPA.
Luscombe offers some easy tips to taxpayers on how to make the final days of tax season much less taxing:
- Take advantage of last-minute tax savings. For example, taxpayers can reduce their taxable income by as much as $5,000 or $6,000 if a taxpayer is 50 or older, and meets income requirements. Taxpayers have until April 17, 2012, to contribute to their 2011 IRA.
- Get help! Taxpayers don’t have to go it alone at tax time. Either turn to a professional to help prepare and file the return, or try tax software that will ease and speed the process. These means will also help ensure taxpayers realize the full benefit of the credits and deductions they deserve.
- Double-check the income tax filing before sending. If information is omitted or a mistake is made, the processing of the tax return and/or refund can be delayed. Among common errors, check to ensure all Social Security numbers are correctly entered and that the tax return is signed – either manually (if mailing) or with an electronic PIN (if e-filing).
- E-file the tax return and use direct deposit. The combination of e-filing with direct deposit can mean receiving the tax refund in days rather than the weeks it can take to get the refund if the taxpayer filed a paper return and have to wait for a check mailed from the IRS.
- Adjust the 2012 withholding if taxes were overpaid in 2011. While many like the idea of getting a refund, a large refund may indicate a taxpayer is overpaying taxes throughout the year. By adjusting the withholding, a taxpayer can ensure he or she is not paying too much throughout the year.
Returns Up, But Average Refund Down
While there are still plenty of taxpayers who haven’t filed, tens of millions of taxpayers have. According to the IRS, as of March 30 more than 89 million income tax returns have been processed – up a little more than 2 percent from the same time last year. E-filed returns are up 4 percent this tax season, with more than 79 million returns being sent electronically. Of those e-filed returns, the IRS reports a significant jump in self-prepared returns – up 9 percent from the same time in 2011. Also, the IRS says the average refund so far has been $2,826 which is down more than 3 percent from $2,922 – the average refund for the same period last year.
However even timely filers may experience a kind of delay.
With increased efforts this year to monitor potential tax fraud, the IRS has been taking more time to check over the income tax returns already received. Because of the increased focus on detecting identity theft and other scams, refund checks are taking a bit more time to process compared to previous years.
“In trying to crack down on those who are attempting to draw an undeserved tax refund illegally, the IRS has been taking more time to make sure each tax return is legitimate before cutting a refund check,” said Luscombe.