With the 2016-2017 tax season in full flight, here are five key items you need to be aware of as you get ready to file your taxes:
1. Despite ongoing system and staffing issues, the IRS has committed to opening tax season on January 23rd, about a week earlier than last year. The standard tax season will close a few days later (due to the weekend and a Washington D.C, holiday) on Tuesday April 18th. Approved extensions can be filed 6 months later – though any taxes are due on the 18th. You can see this table for all key dates in the upcoming tax season.
2. Once the IRS starts processing your tax return (only after January 23rd no matter how early you file), you can expect to get your refund within 21 days. The exception to this is those claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), for which the IRS has announced it will hold payment of refunds until February 15 in order to perform further identity verification checks. Here are the estimated refund payment dates (based on valid returns being accepted) for the latest tax season, but remember that you should wait at least 21 days before contacting the IRS with any refund payment or delay questions. The best bet is to review the official IRS Where’s My Refund tool for the latest status of your refund.
3. Did you know that if your income is below a certain threshold you can actually e-File your taxes for free? Thanks to the IRS FreeFile program with major tax software providers, they provide a free version of their tax filing software for millions of taxpayers with incomes of $64,000 or less (some providers have different limits). So if your income is below this, expect to file your taxes for free. Note that if your tax filing gets complicated or you need additional support, you will likely have to pay for that extra level.
4. Getting a meeting with an actual IRS agent who can help you with your tax return or refund delays can be a challenge in itself. The IRS has recognized that this has been an ongoing taxpayer concern and to alleviate long lines at in-person IRS centers from a first come, first served approach, they have now instituted formal appointments to get in person support. To schedule an appointment at a IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC) taxpayers can call 844.545.5640 or use the TAC tool to find a location near you. Hopefully this means you can get helpful in-person support without having to wait for hours in a long line.
5. Increased identity theft and fraud protection. In addition to holding returns for further validation with EITC or ACTC refunds due – which have a high correlation to fraudulent returns/refunds – the IRS may require taxpayers who self-prepare returns using a tax software filing product for the first time to provide their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. The IRS has also instituted other verification and e-sign procedures for 2017, so don’t be surprised if your return is flagged for further verification. While this may hold up refund payments, it will at least mean that the right people are getting their refunds.