It’s tax time again! If you’re feeling lost in a sea of papers and receipts, no worries…we’re here to help!
To start, if you’re like many Americans who have not yet filed your taxes, there’s good news: you have more time! April 18 is the income tax filing deadline for 2016 because of the observance of the Emancipation Day Holiday.
Next, we’ve compiled some tools, tips, and links to help ease the stress of tax time, and to help to empower us to take control of our finances. Since God wants us all to be good stewards of our finances (Matthew 25:20-21), these tips can help take some of the drudgery and mystery out of tax preparation, and to encourage us to establish good financial practices for the future:
Organize. Use a box or separate envelopes to toss receipts, and to store tax forms received from employers or clients. Use an accordion file to store receipts and bills; use one section per month. Designate a place in your home where these items can be kept on a permanent basis.
Chart your spending. Record your expenditures by category. This will help your tax preparer make the right deductions for you, which could result in a bigger return. It will also help you to better budget your spending. Download our free MONTHLY EXPENSE FORM; use it at the end of each month to organize and record your receipts and expenditures.
Gather all necessary paperwork. TurboTax has compiled a handy list with additional information that can affect your tax filing status. Click here to download.
File an extension. Feeling stressed by the last-minute rush? The IRS grants special penalty relief to many taxpayers who request a time extension to file their federal income tax returns. You’ll find Form 4868 here.
File online. If you feel confident that you can fill out the forms yourself, then avoid those long lines at the post office by filing online for free. The IRS now offers many services on their website at IRS.gov, including the Online Payment Agreement application, and Free File, a step-by-step tax return filing system. Filing through Free File, you avoid the late-filing penalty on money you may owe. Even if you make a mistake, there’s a solution. Use Form 1040X to correct any errors, even on previously filed returns.
Owe money? Don’t panic! Some struggling taxpayers may qualify for an offer-in-compromise, an agreement between the taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. Eligibility is determined by the taxpayer’s income and assets.
Filing after the deadline? It’s not the end of the world. Contact the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). They’re your voice at the IRS, and they can answer questions about tax credits, penalties, and tax return preparation. Their job is to make sure that all taxpayers are treated fairly.
Help is FREE. There are several resources for free help with tax return preparation and questions:
The West Angeles Community Development Corporation offers free tax return preparation for individuals and small business owners with low to moderate incomes. Click here for more information, or call 1-323-751-3440.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free, individualized tax preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers, with a special interest to those 60 and older. There are more than 5,000 locations nationwide; click here to find a site near you, or call 1-888-227-7669.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help nationwide to people who generally make $52,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. Click here to find a VITA site near you or call 1-800-906-9887.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS. Click here to find a TCE site near you or call 800-906-9887.
The IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) offers free help to guide you through the often-confusing process of resolving tax problems that you haven’t been able to solve on your own. Their role is to help you understand your rights. Click here or call 1-877-777-4778.
Finally, remember, as 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV) tells us, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
On behalf of West Angeles Church of God In Christ, have a blessed and stress-free tax season!
By linking to the external sites mentioned in this article, West Angeles Church of God in Christ is not endorsing their products, services, or privacy or security policies. We recommend you review the business or organization’s information collection policy or terms and conditions to fully understand what information is collected by these entities. Our thanks to the IRS, Intuit / TurboTax, and the West Angeles CDC.