2020 Update: Watching out for Fraud
It’s best to file early to thwart tax refund thieves, who can use your social security number to impersonate you, then file a fake tax return in your name claiming a refund. If the IRS has not received your legitimate tax return by the time the thief’s fake tax return shows up, the IRS might process the thief’s tax return and mail them a check.
All a thief needs is your social security number, so be careful about who has access to it. The IRS doesn’t call people to ask them their social security number. The IRS doesn’t call people to threaten them. But scammers do. So don’t be duped into giving out your social security number over the phone. Also, don’t leave your social security card or documents showing the number where they can be seen like lying on a desk or visible through a car window. Everyone has a phone with a camera these days, so a picture can be snapped in a sec and your social security number begins its new life as an Internet celebrity.
2019’s Epiphany for the Middle Class
During the 1st Quarter of 2019 many American taxpayers came face-to-face with the realization that the much-publicized “tax cut” of 2018 had either not provided the promised effect of actually reducing a family’s income taxes, or has left them with a reduced or negative refund this year. As reported in the Wall Street Journal on March 11, 2019, “Federal tax receipts rose 10% from a year ago,” and, specifically with respect to President Trump, “He promised to look out for the middle class but signed a massive tax giveaway to the top 1%.”
IRS Withholding Calculator
If you’re not among the top 1% and find yourself having to send money with your tax return, rather than planning how to spend the refund you once enjoyed, it might be time to sit down and re-calculate your deductions using the online IRS Withholding Calculator. Increasing your tax withholding will reduce your take home pay going forward but should, at least, protect you from owing on your 2019 federal tax return next year.
Preparing Your 2019 Income Tax Return
There are a number of ways available for you to prepare and file your 2018 income tax return(s). We’ll start with the easiest (that you can prepare and file for free), and work our way up to cover solutions for more complex returns.
Free Tax Prep Software
The IRS Free File program provides free tax preparation software to taxpayers with income below $66,000. The official Free File Web site is FreeFile.IRS.gov
Free Tax Forms
For taxpayers whose income is above $66,000, the IRS offers Free File ‘Fillable’ Forms that are electronic versions of federal tax forms. The forms to prepare and e-file your 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ return are available online. Here is a list of the available IRS Free Fillable Tax Forms. To begin, click Start Free Fillable Forms.
Free File Fillable Forms allow anyone to fill out and file their tax forms electronically, just as they would on paper. This option does not include an “interview” process like Free File, but it does allow you to enter your tax data, perform basic math calculations, sign electronically, print your return for record keeping and e-file your tax return. Free File Fillable Forms are right for people who are comfortable preparing their own tax returns and know what forms they need and don’t need.
Earned Income Tax Credit – EITC
The Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC or EIC, is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income. EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may give you a refund. Many states have similar tax credits. Don’t miss out! To see if you qualify, go to the EITC Home Page for all the rules and the EITC Assistant, which can help you estimate your credit.
California FTB Tax Forms & Filing
The Franchise Tax Board continues to offer a free service for California filers under its CalFile program (previously known as ReadyReturn). To see if you qualify to file directly with the FTB, visit CalFile.
Help with Tax Laws and Audits
For additional help or assistance with complicated issues, consult a tax attorney, CPA or Enrolled Agent. You can find a tax attorney using Legal.com’s Find-a-Lawyer for advice, representation in an audit or negotiation of an offer-in-compromise. You might even have a membership in a legal services plan through work, that features tax advice as one of its benefits. If not, look into LegalShield which offers affordable individual legal plans and optional identity theft protection.
How to Access all Federal, State and Provincial Tax Forms
You can download all the forms you need from your state’s official tax site, for free! For Federal forms and information, see the IRS Web site. There, you can even check on your refund status. For state and Canadian Province tax forms, search [State/Province] tax forms using Legal.com’s Legal Research tool, e.g., Alabama tax forms; Quebec tax forms. When you see the list of results, look for the official web site of the state or province, to download current forms directly from the official source.