Consumer Alerts

    Prepping for Tax Preparation


    February 4, 2015

    Many times what makes Tax Day stressful is the procrastination of waiting to prepare those returns until the day they are due. Consumers should decide now how they will go about preparing tax returns — either prepare their own or seek assistance from a tax-preparation service.

    Every year there seem to be more regulations and forms related to tax filing. Some Arkansas consumers may choose to seek assistance with tax preparations rather than crunching numbers and reviewing documents themselves.

    Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to plan in advance how they will file their returns and to inform consumers about some of the free tax preparation options available.

    “Remember: Nothing prepares us more than being prepared,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Although some Arkansans file their own taxes without a problem, others may find the tax code to be too complex and tax-preparation services might be a better fit. While some of these services are costly, there are a number of free file programs available that are convenient and easy to use.”

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers its Free File electronic tax filing program to all taxpayers through brand-name software or online forms. Taxpayers who earned less than $58,000 in adjusted gross income in 2014 are eligible to receive free online filing help. Visit www.irs.gov for more information.

    The IRS also offers free, in-person tax filing and preparation assistance to qualified individuals through its Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs. The VITA program is available for those earning less than $52,000 a year as well as for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. VITA locations are staffed with trained volunteers in local community centers, libraries, and schools. Consumers may call (800) 906-9887 to find the nearest VITA location or visit the IRS website. The TCE program provides free assistance to those 60 years of age and older. Most TCE sites are operated through the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide Program. For more information or to find the nearest TCE location, visit http://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/ or call (888) 227-7669.

    Consumers who choose to pay for help from commercial tax prep providers should keep these tips in mind:

    • Shop around as cost may vary between providers.
    • Choose a well-qualified, reputable tax preparer; taxpayers themselves are ultimately responsible for all information provided to the IRS.
    • Read, review, and ask the tax preparer about any entries that may be difficult to understand before documents are filed.
    • Ask whether the tax preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which is issued by the IRS.
    • Ask if the business is open year-round in case there are follow-up questions regarding a return.

    Filing taxes is not optional, so spend some time now to prepare and file to make your 2015 Tax Day a little less stressful.

    For more information on tax preparation, please visit the Consumer Protection Division at www.ArkansasAG.gov or call the division hotline at (800) 482-8982.

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