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Holiday bumps state and federal tax deadlines to April 17

January 21, 2012|By MAEGAN CLEARWOOD | For The Herald-Mail

This year’s income tax filing season is two days longer than usual, but some taxpayers still might feel overwhelmed, an IRS spokeswoman said this week.

As a result of Washington, D.C.’s observance of Emancipation Day on April 16, the deadline for filing state and federal income tax returns is Tuesday, April 17. By law, D.C. holidays affect IRS tax deadlines. 

IRS spokeswoman Peggy Riley said there are few tax law changes this year, which hopefully will result in a smooth tax season.

One change taxpayers should be aware of is Congress’ extension of the payroll tax deduction, which means “a little more in our paychecks” this year, Riley said.

Otherwise, tax procedures remain the same this year. If anything, the process might prove less complicated than in the past, she said.

Riley said the transition to electronic filing has eliminated many common problems.

“It’s the simplest, easiest, most accurate way to file,” she said. “It does all the work for you. It brings up deductions and gets money back to you quicker.”

Riley said the most common mistakes she sees are math errors and missed signatures. E-filing ensures accurate, virtually error-free calculations, and users register a Personal Identification Number instead of a signature.

“A lot of those errors you don’t see, when people file electronically,” she said.

The IRS no longer mails paper copies of necessary tax forms, but the traditional method remains an option. Those who are more comfortable filing their taxes by hand may pick up the proper documents at their local IRS office or download them from www.IRS.gov.

Riley said the online system has presented few challenges for new users.

“I think as more and more people are getting used to online banking, this is the natural progression of things,” she said.

Professional help still is available, especially for small-business owners or people with special deductions.

“If you’re looking for help, make sure they’re a registered preparer and that they’ll be around after tax season,” Riley said.

All professionals are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number through the IRS.

Riley encourages people who are seeking professional help to start by asking for recommendations from friends and family members.

“A lot of people return to the same person year after year,” she said.

Although professional help might be an optimal choice for some, Riley said most questions can be answered online.

IRS.gov offers a number of helpful applications, including “Where’s My Refund?” and a Sales Tax Deduction Calculator. Users also can learn if they are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which Riley said can “provide thousands in refunds” for low-income working individuals.

“People find that it’s pretty easy to research and walk around the website themselves, as opposed to calling or coming into an office,” she said.

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