Now that the federal income tax filing deadline is in your rear-view mirror, what happens after you file?
A lot of taxpayers have post tax-filing questions such as what records do I keep and more importantly, “Where’s my Refund?” The IRS has answers for you below.
You can go online to check the status of your 2010 refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after you mail a paper return. Be sure to have a copy of your 2010 tax return available because you will need to know your filing status, the first Social Security number shown on the return, and the exact whole-dollar amount of the refund. You have three options for checking on your refund:
• Go to http://irs.gov and click on “Where’s My Refund”
• Call 800-829-4477~24 hours a day, seven days a week, for automated refund information
• Call 800-829-1954 during the hours shown in your tax form instructions
• Use IRS2Go. If you have an Apple iPhone or iTouch or an Android device you can download an application to check the status of your refund.
What Records Should I Keep?
Normally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents — such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRAs and business or rental property — should be kept longer.
You should keep copies of tax returns you have filed and the tax forms package as part of your records. They may be helpful in amending already filed returns or preparing future returns.
Change of Address
If you move after you filed your return, send Form 8822, Change of Address, to the Internal Revenue Service. If you are expecting a paper refund check, you should also file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service.
What If I Made a Mistake?
Errors may delay your refund or result in notices being sent to you. If you discover an error on your return, you can correct your return by filing an amended return using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
Visit the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov for more information on refunds, recordkeeping, address changes and amended returns.
Eight Tips to Help You Choose a Tax Preparer
The IRS urges people to use care and caution when choosing a tax preparer. Remember, you are legally responsible for what’s on your tax return even if it was prepared by another individual or firm.
Most tax return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients. However, unscrupulous tax return preparers do exist and can cause considerable financial and legal problems for their clients. Therefore, it’s important to find a qualified tax professional.
The following tips will help you choose a preparer who will offer the best service for your tax preparation needs.
1. Check the person’s qualifications Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.
2. Check on the preparer’s history Check to see if the preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state’s board of accountancy for CPAs or the state’s bar association for attorneys.
3. Find out about their service fees Avoid preparers that base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
4. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after April 15, in case questions arise.
5. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return Most reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.
6. Never sign a blank return Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
7. Review the entire return before signing it Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
8. Make sure the preparer signs the form A paid preparer must sign the return as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
Seven Things You Should Know About Checking the Status of Your Refund
Are you expecting a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service this year? If so, here are seven things you should know about checking the status of your refund once you have filed your federal tax return.
1. Online Access to Refund Information Where’s My Refund? or ¿Dónde está mi reembolso? are interactive tools on IRS.gov and the fastest, easiest way to get information about your federal income tax refund. Whether you split your refund among several accounts, opted for direct deposit into one account, used part of your refund to buy U.S. savings bonds or asked the IRS to mail you a check, Where’s My Refund? and ¿Dónde está mi reembolso? give you online access to your refund information nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s quick, easy and secure.
2. When to Check Refund Status If you e-file, you can get refund information 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your return. If you file a paper return, refund information will generally be available three to four weeks after mailing your return.
3. What You Need to Check Refund Status When checking the status of your refund, have your federal tax return handy. To get your personalized refund information you must enter:
• Your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
• Your filing status which will be Single, Married Filing Joint Return, Married Filing Separate Return, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widow(er)
• Exact whole dollar refund amount shown on your tax return
4. What the Online Tool Will Tell You Once you enter your personal information, you could get several responses, including:
• Acknowledgement that your return was received and is in processing.
• The mailing date or direct deposit date of your refund.
• Notice that the IRS could not deliver your refund due to an incorrect address. In this instance, you may be able to change or correct your address online using Where’s My Refund?.
5. Customized Information Where’s My Refund? also includes links to customized information based on your specific situation. The links guide you through the steps to resolve any issues affecting your refund. For example, if you do not get the refund within 28 days from the original IRS mailing date shown on Where’s My Refund?, you may be able to start a refund trace.
6. Visually Impaired Taxpayers Where’s My Refund? is also accessible to visually impaired taxpayers who use the Job Access with Speech screen reader used with a Braille display and is compatible with different JAWS modes.
7. Toll-free Number If you do not have internet access, you can check the status of your refund in English or Spanish by calling the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954 or the IRS TeleTax System at 800-829-4477. When calling, you must provide your or your spouse’s Social Security number, filing status and the exact whole dollar refund amount shown on your return.
Refund checks are normally sent out weekly on Fridays. If you check the status of your refund and are not given the date it will be issued, please wait until the next week before checking back.
Three Ways to Pay Your Federal Income Tax
People who owe taxes but can’t pay the full amount owed by the April deadline should still file their return on time and pay as much as they can to avoid penalties and interest. If you can’t pay the full amount, you should contact the IRS to ask about alternative payment options. Here are some of the alternative payment options you may want to consider:
1. Additional Time to Pay Based on your circumstances, you may be granted a short additional time to pay your tax in full. A brief additional amount of time to pay can be requested through the Online Payment Agreement application at IRS.gov or by calling 800-829-1040. Taxpayers who request and are granted an additional 30 to 120 days to pay the tax in full generally will pay less in penalties and interest than if the debt were repaid through an installment agreement over a greater period of time.
2. Installment Agreement You can apply for an IRS installment agreement using the Web-based Online Payment Agreement application on IRS.gov. This Web-based application allows taxpayers who owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interestto self-qualify, apply for, and receive immediate notification of approval. You can also request an installment agreement before your current tax liabilities are actually assessed by using OPA. The OPA option provides you with a simple and convenient way to establish an installment agreement and eliminates the need for personal interaction with IRS and reduces paper processing. You may also complete and submit a Form 9465, make your request in writing, or call 1-800-829-1040 to make your request. For balances over $25,000, you are required to complete a financial statement to determine the monthly payment amount for an installment plan. For more complete information see Tax Topic 202, Tax Payment Options on IRS.gov.
3. Pay by Credit Card or Debit Card You can charge your taxes on your American Express, MasterCard, Visa or Discover credit cards. Additionally, you can pay by using your debit card. However, the debit card must be a Visa Consumer Debit Card, or a NYCE, Pulse or Star Debit Card. To pay by credit card or debit card, contact one of the service providers at its telephone number or Web site listed below and follow the instructions. There is no IRS fee for credit or debit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee or flat fee. If you are paying by credit card, the service providers charge a convenience fee based on the amount you are paying. If you are paying by debit card, the service providers charge a flat fee of $3.89 to $3.95.Do not add the convenience fee or flat fee to your tax payment.
The processing companies are:
Official Payments Corporation:
To pay by debit or credit card: 888-UPAY-TAX (888-872-9829),
To pay by debit or credit card: 888-PAY-1040 (888-729-1040),
RBS WorldPay, Inc.
To pay by debit or credit card: 888-9PAY-TAX (888-972-9829),
For more information about filing and paying your taxes, visit IRS.gov and choose 1040 Central or refer to the Form 1040 Instructions or IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. You can download forms and publications at IRS.gov or request a free copy by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).