People exit the Albany Towers in Albany, where the local IRS office is located. Taxpayers who have procrastinated are down to their final week to file income tax returns to the federal and state governments. (Staff photo: Laura Williams)
ALBANY — As the deadline to file both state and federal income tax quickly approaches, the Internal Revenue Service is urging citizens to take advantage of electronic filing as a means of getting their taxes filed on time.
The deadline for filing income taxes is midnight Tuesday and the IRS estimates that currently more than 1 million Georgians have yet to file income taxes for 2013. Many of those are potentially eligible for free electronic filing (e-filing), agency officials note.
According to IRS spokesman Mark Green, electronic filing not only helps taxpayers ease the stress of filing on time, but it also greatly reduces the number of errors found on a tax return, something that could potentially lead to unnecessary delays for those taxpayers who are eligible for a refund.
“We see a dramatic reduction in the number of errors with tax returns that are filed electronically,” Green said. “Better yet, (those who) choose direct deposit can have (their) refund placed in (their) bank account in as little as 21 days.”
Green said many Georgians have filed their returns electronically, with many qualifying for free electronic service. The IRS Free File program offers free tax preparation and free e-filing to individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $58,000 or less through partnerships with various software companies.
“Georgia taxpayers are e-filing in record numbers this year,” said Green. “Thus far in Georgia, we have received over 2.7 million of the expected 3.7 million expected e-file returns.”
Some taxpayers, Green said, are hesitant to file their returns because they owe money, not realizing that they can file electronically and set up payment plans if they are unable to pay the full amount at the deadline. Green said in numerous cases, as long as a person meets the deadline for filing taxes, they may qualify for some type of relief program.
Despite the ease of electronic filing Green said some taxpayers simply won’t have their returns completed and filed by Tuesday’s deadline for a number of reasons.
Those who will not meet the deadline are urged to file for an extension to allow additional time to complete their full returns.
The IRS says the fastest way for taxpayers to file for an extension is electronically through the Free File link on the IRS.gov website. According to the IRS, anyone using this service, regardless of income, can request an automatic six-month filing extension.
Taxpayers can also apply for an extension through the mail by filing a Form 4868 — Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax return — with the IRS. That form is available at the IRS website, www.irs.gov.
Many taxpayers prefer to file paper returns, Green said. For those individuals, the IRS offers a few tips to help make sure their returns are complete and accurate.
One of the most important items, according to the IRS, is that taxpayers make sure identification numbers, particularly Social Security numbers, for each person listed on the return are correct. This includes the primary taxpayer, spouse and dependents, as well as anyone claimed for the Child and Dependent Care Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit.
Another area of concern is the accuracy of figures on the return. The IRS urges tax preparers to double-check all figures to make sure the proper refund or balance due amount is correct.
All returns also need to be signed by the taxpayer and by any tax preparer if applicable.
Returns should be mailed using the coded envelope included with the tax package received by the taxpayer. Those who did not receive an envelope need to check the section called “Where Do You File?” in the tax instruction booklet.
Finally, anyone filing a paper return with a payment should make checks payable to United States Treasury and should enclose it with — but not attach it to — the tax return or the form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, if used. The check should include the taxpayer’s Social Security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and the type of form filed.
Anyone looking for more information on how to file taxes or to locate certain forms should visit the the IRS webiste www.irs.gov.