The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made it easier for taxpayers to file their tax returns, as well as to monitor and protect their federal income tax accounts. Here are some examples:
Complete your tax return for free. If your income is below $58,000 – you can use free federal income tax preparation software. It is available online 24/7. The IRS states the process is safe and secure. Refunds may be directly deposited into your bank account. Visit http://www.IRS.gov/freefile for more details.
Obtain tax return and income transcripts at no cost. If you need your past income tax or earnings records, for example, because you are applying for a mortgage or a student loan, you may obtain a copy for free. Tax return and income transcripts may be ordered online, without charge, and delivered electronically or by mail. Taxpayers also may sign and submit to the IRS Form 4506-T or call (800) 908-9946 to obtain their free tax return transcripts. IRS forms can be found at http://www.irs.gov/Forms-&-Pubs.
Monitor the status of your refund. The most up to date information about your refund can be found using the IRS tool “Where’s My Refund?” (http://www.irs.gov/Refunds). Taxpayers also can learn the status of their refund by calling the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954. If you haven’t received your refund within 20 days of filing an electronic return or six weeks from the time of mailing your paper return, you may contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 and a representative will figure out the status of your refund.
Contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service. If you have a problem with the IRS that you can’t resolve, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is available to help you. TAS is an independent organization within the IRS that works on behalf of taxpayers. TAS may help taxpayers who have financial difficulties, who face an immediate threat of adverse action, or who have not heard back from the IRS in response to a question. You can contact the Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA) at (216) 522-7134 or send Form 911 to the LTA by fax at (855) 824-6409 or by mail to 1240 E. Ninth St., Room 423, Cleveland, Ohio 44199.
Protect yourself from refund fraud related to identity theft. Refund fraud can cause lots of problems for taxpayers. Determine if any of the following problems have occurred:
- More than one tax refund was filed for you for a single tax year;
- IRS records show you received more wages than you actually earned; or
- Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received incorrect information concerning a change in your income.
If so, you should immediately act in the following ways to protect yourself from identity theft:
- Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490 and complete and submit to the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039;
- Notify your local police department to make a report;
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through its Identity Theft Hotline at www.consumer.ftc.gov or by calling (877)438-4338; and,
- Contact the three major credit bureaus: Equifax – www.equifax.com or (800) 525-6285; Experian – www.Experian.com or (888) 397-3742; and, TransUnion – www.transunion.com or (800) 680-7289 to tell them you were a victim of identity theft.
Guard against tax preparer abuse. If you believe your tax return was not prepared correctly, immediately complete and submit to the IRS Form 14157. Fraud by tax preparers occurs when the preparer claims inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits and/or excessive exemptions on returns prepared for their clients. For suspected cases of fraud, contact the Ohio Attorney General at 800-282-0515, local law enforcement agencies and an attorney who specializes in civil litigation who will counsel you on your rights and remedies.
This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Dennis Dobos and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!