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franklin county times

Don’t delay – tax season is underway

Tax season officially began Jan. 23, according to the Alabama Department of Revenue, and that means the time is now to get those returns filed.

Many of us dread this time of year and with good reason. It can be stressful trying to figure out tax filing. Should you do it yourself, or hire a pro? Can you claim an exemption for this or that? What about side income? There is so much paperwork, and it can be easy to get lost in the official jargon.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 168 million individual tax returns are expected to be filed this year. So, the good news is, you’re not alone in the struggle.

Tax season has been even more fraught than usual the past few years, with complications from COVID-19’s impact. We’re glad to hear that with that in mind, the IRS has taken additional steps for 2023 to improve service during the tax filing season, hiring more than 5,000 new telephone assisters and adding more in-person staff, according to the IRS.gov website.

Acting IRS Commissioner Doug O’Donnell said it’s at least in part thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act that the IRS has “trained thousands of new employees to answer phones and help people. While much work remains after several difficult years, we expect people to experience improvements this tax season. That’s just the start as we work to add new long-term transformation efforts that will make things even smoother in future years. We are very excited to begin to deliver what taxpayers want and our employees know we could do with this funding.”

The January 23 start date for individual tax return filers was designed to “allow the IRS time to perform annual updates and readiness work that are critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly.”

Hopefully that was achieved, and those tax returns will be processed smooth as butter. 

The IRS and ALDOR offer these tips, among all the advice for a less-stressful filing season:

  1. Have all the information you need before you file a tax return. Filing a complete and accurate tax return can help you avoid extensive processing and refund delays as well as avoid the possibility of needing to file an amended tax return.
  2. Carefully review your tax situation to make sure you don’t overlook important tax credits you might be eligible for, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  3. Take advantage of free services like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs.
  4. File early to get your return processed quicker and your refund back sooner, as well as to get ahead potential fraudsters.
  5. After returns are filed, ALDOR might send letters asking for more information. If you receives a letter from ALDOR, respond quickly so the department can review the information and get the return processed. Remember – ALDOR will never contact taxpayers initially by phone, text or email, only by letters sent through the mail.
  6. Remember that most income is taxable, including unemployment income, interest received or money earned from the gig economy or digital assets. Individuals should make sure they report the correct amount on their tax return to avoid processing delays.
  7. Visit IRS.gov first for questions. IRS.gov has much of the same information that IRS phone assisters have.
  8. Speed refunds by filing electronically and choosing direct deposit. This is the fastest and easiest way to file and receive a refund. To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible.

The filing deadline is April 18 for most taxpayers. It’s April 18 instead of April 15 because of the weekend and D.C.’s Emancipation Day holiday, which falls April 17.

Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Oct. 16 to file.

This is almost nobody’s favorite time of year, but armed with these tips and a modicum of patience, we will all get through it.

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