Friday, February 17, 2012

Tax Time (with Two Extra Days)

Today marks two months ‘til tax time! Just like last year, the traditional April 15 federal income tax deadline falls on a weekend, and April 16 is an official holiday in the District of Columbia (Emancipation Day). So chronic procrastinators have an extra-long weekend to prepare and file their federal taxes before Tuesday, April 17 – and many states, including North Carolina, are also following the federal government’s lead in order to avoid deadline confusion.

But even with the extra few days, you can certainly get started on your tax preparation now. Although the Goodson Law Library staff cannot answer substantive tax-related questions (such as “what forms do I need to file?” or help with interpreting the form instructions), the Goodson Blogson can recommend some starting places for finding assistance.

Before you pay for a professional tax preparation service, consider whether you qualify for the IRS FreeFile program. This service links qualifying taxpayers to free electronic federal tax preparation service (state tax preparation may also be available in some cases). Note that your adjusted gross income must be $57,000 or less in order to take advantage of the FreeFile program. However, those with higher income can still use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file their federal returns.

You might also qualify for assistance from VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), a program in which trained volunteers assist with preparation for low- to moderate-income taxpayers, as well as senior citizens. Duke Law’s VITA chapter has posted their calendar for spring 2012; please note that advance appointments are required. For readers outside the Durham area, the IRS maintains a list of VITA sites around the country.

If your taxes turn out to be too complicated, you might need to hire a professional. The IRS has tips for choosing a tax professional as well as instructions for filing complaints against any bad apples out there. Good luck—and for the perpetual procrastinators, there’s always an automatic extension. Keep in mind, though, that filing extensions don’t include an extension of time to pay estimated taxes!