Tax season is here and the countdown to file has begun.
The IRS started accepting and processing federal income tax returns on Monday. A few things will be different about this tax season in Somerset County, so here are some tips and updates to help.
What to know:Tax season 2022: IRS now accepting tax returns. What to know about your refund before filing taxes.
Don't throw this away:Don't throw away this document. Why IRS Letter 6419 is critical to filing your 2021 taxes.
Tax help programs canceled
Two popular tax preparation services in Somerset County have been canceled this year.
Community Action Partnership for Somerset County, or Tableland, has in the past helped qualifying taxpayers fill out their tax forms with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
According to Tableland's website, the tax help program is not available this year.The website points former participants to myfreetaxes.com or irs.gov to file for free.
David Mrozowski, executivedirector at Tableland, said his organizationwas unable to findvolunteers to help this year.
Last year, according to Mrozowski, the program helped 600 people.It hadbeen ongoing for 12 to14 years.
He added that Tableland worked out a deal with Liberty Tax so that anyone who mentions Tableland can get 40% off the price of their services.
"They still obviously charge. It's not free," Mrozowski said. "I'm hopeful we can restart the program next year.”
“They should check with their local tax preparers. Their rates are much less than the national chains.”
In past years, seniors could also havetheir taxes done with help from AARP.
Christine Saylor, Area Agency on Aging for Somerset Countysenior center services director, said she would refer people to AARP in the past, but this year the AARP can't get volunteers to help.
"Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone in Somerset County that does them for the seniors.We have even contacted the local representatives’ offices and they have nobody," she said in an email.
How to file for free
Pennsylvanians who are seniors or have a disabilitycan file for rebates on property taxes or rent via mypath.pa.gov. Nearly half a million Pennsylvanians are eligible to file their taxes this way.
Applicants areasked to provide specific information about their income, rent and/or property taxes.
For others, free online tax software is available at irs.gov through the "Free File" program. This is available to this with anadjusted gross income of$73,000 or less.
Researchat irs.gov may be needed to determine which tax software participant is offering free help to people of variousincome groups and tax situations.
This year's participants are: TaxAct, Free 1040 Tax Return, fileyourtaxes.com, OnLine Taxes, 1040NOW,FreeTaxUSA, TaxSlayer and eztaxreturn.com.
TurboTax is no longer participating in this particular program,but it has some of its own options online for free tax filing. H&R Blockexited the "Free File" programin October 2020.
How to get more money for the child tax credit
Those who qualify for the child tax credit need to file a Schedule 8812 to claim any additional credit they could be owed.
Many families will be looking at receiving more money for the child tax creditwhen they file their 2021 federal income tax return because the advance payments weredesigned to represent only half of what they're due. The advance child tax credit received from July through December last year amounted to up to $1,500 or up to $1,800 for each child, depending on the child's age.
It's possible filerscould be looking at another $1,500 or $1,800 for each qualifying child now for thechild tax credit aftera 2021 federal income tax return is filed.
Reporting themoney received in 2021 when completing Schedule 8812 is critical to avoidrisking lengthy delays when it comes to receiving tax refunds.
A married couple filing a joint return won't just receive one Letter 6419 —they'll actually receive two such letters, according toApril Walker, lead manager for tax practice andethics with the American Institute of CPAs.
Walker said both of those letters will need to be taken into account and reported on Schedule 8812 when filing your return.
Parents who received the advance credit from July through December need to watch their mail for a letter from the IRS calledLetter 6419to reconcile what they received in advance to what they still could be owed when they file a tax return.
The letter gives two key pieces of information: how much wasreceived in total payments in 2021 and the number of qualifying children used to calculate those advance payments.
The IRS notes on Schedule 8812, Line 14f: "If the amount on this line doesn’t match the aggregate amounts reported to you (and your spouse if filing jointly) on your Letter(s) 6419, the processing of your return will be delayed."
Walker said people shouldreview the advance paymentsreceived by looking atbanking recordsand then comparingthe amounton the letter or letters.
If thenumbers seemincorrect, she said, don't just assume themath is correct and hastily just put anumber on the line. Take extra time to review what might have caused the discrepancy.
How to get help:2022 tax advice: How to get child tax credit cash, charitable deductions and free help
How to avoid hidden tax filing fees
Some tax services — especially online or via programs — sometimes contain hidden fees that people often overlook.
Services like TurboTax will charge users more than $40 to file taxes online. The program allows users to pay for their service by deducting the money directly froma tax refund, but it also adds on a $40 fee for this service.
Instead, users can avoid the fee by paying with a credit card.
Always read the fine print and ask about strange charges.
Tips for filing taxes
Jayson Lawson,director of business development at Keystone Collections Group, said that all Pennsylvania residents who have earned income or net profits are required to file a return.
He also suggested that taxpayers should make sure their tax preparer completes their local tax return.
"In some cases, the tax preparers complete state and federal tax returns, but not the local tax return," Lawson said in an email.
"Local earned income tax is assessed on earned income and net profits, which generally match compensation and net profits taxable for state purposes. Subchapter-S profits are not taxable, and taxpayers with such profits should check the box on their tax return."
Lawsonadded that the two previous tax seasons have been impacted by COVID-19, but he does not anticipate any changes to the April 18 tax filing deadline this year.
Keystone will handle the majority of per capita taxes for Somerset County this year, and residents can reach Keystone with questions at 724-978-0300 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Keystone not Capital Tax:Why Somerset County residents should no longer call Capital Tax Bureau with tax questions
How businesses can get a tax credit
Local businesses in Somerset County can receivea tax credit by donating to charities.
The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies Educational Improvement Tax Credit awards tax credits to local businesses and at the same time contributes to local charities. This yearthe program awarded $1,000 each to Berlin Brothersvalley and Meyersdale school districts.
"In the 2020/2021 school year, the agency’s generosity helped cover after-school computer programming enrichment programming, an amphibian/mammal dissection project, engineering-focused learning opportunities for elementary school students, a robotics competition, and a STEM science program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade," the foundation said in a press release.
The application submission deadline for businesses reapplying to the program is May 17, andthe deadline for businesses new to the program is July 1.
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