By Ethnic Media Services
Tax season officially opened Jan. 24, but early birds will have to wait for refunds until March, as the Internal Revenue Service is barred from issuing payments before Feb. 15.
“It is our intent that filing is as smooth and easy as possible. We want to make certain that consumers are getting all the credits and refunds they are eligible to receive,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, at a Jan. 28 briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services.
Rettig strongly recommended filing electronically, and using direct deposit so that funds are deposited directly to a bank account. Paper returns have the greatest number of delays, he said. Refunds are usually issued 21 days after the tax return has been processed, but not before Feb. 15. Tax returns and payments are due by April 18, and the IRS is not considering extensions this year, as it did for the past two years during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For those hoping to avoid costly online tax filing portals, the IRS recommends using the free file program at: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. The service is available to those with Adjusted Gross Incomes of under $73,000. For those lacking broadband access, the IRS offers another service: the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, also known as VITA. The service is available to those who earn less than $58,000 annually, seniors or people with disabilities, and people with limited English skills. Services are offered in 350 languages, either by phone or by going into a local IRS office. Several VITA sites are located at community centers. https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers
Rettig advised those availing of free services to only use sites from irs.gov, to avoid scams. Ken Corbin, Wage and Investment Division Commissioner and Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer at the IRS, noted at the briefing that multiple changes have been made to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, allowing more people to avail of its benefits.
For families without children, the benefit has almost tripled from a maximum of $529 for the 2020 tax season, to $1502 this year. The credit has also been raised for families with children; one qualifying child allows for a maximum credit of $3,733, provided that household income is under $43,492. Two qualifying children allow for a maximum of $6,164, provided household income is under $49, 399. Families with three or more children with an annual income below $53,000 can receive a maximum credit of $6,935.
The minimum age to qualify for EITC has been lowered from 25 to 18, said Corbin, adding that minors who have aged out of foster care or are experiencing homelessness can now also qualify for the credit. People who have investment income under $10,000 and meet the household income guidelines may also qualify for EITC this year, said Corbin. He noted that the Economic Impact Payments sent out last year to individuals earning less than $72,000 are not considered taxable income, but must nonetheless be reported on your tax return. Both Rettig and Corbin noted the large number of scams, stemming from people who represented themselves as IRS agents.
“The IRS will not call you by phone without a notice in advance. Don’t accept a text, a call, especially if they ask for bank info or to pay with a gift card. That is a scam,” cautioned Corbin.
Consumers can read about the most-prolific IRS scams at https://irs.gov/newsroom/dirty-dozen Corbin said the agency defines its success when “we meet our taxpayers in the communities where they live and to expand options and choices.” To meet that goal, the IRS is hiring, especially those who speak a language other than English. Job seekers can search for open positions at the agency usajobs.gov.