MORRIS – Tax season may have started two weeks late this year, but the Internal Revenue Service already has doled out more money in tax refunds than last year.
As of Feb. 14, the IRS had received 27.3 million returns and refunded $19.5 million to U.S. taxpayers. This year, the average American will receive a $3,317 refund, which is about $200, or 4.6 percent, higher than last year’s average refund, according to a news release from the IRS.
Local residents are encouraged to visit a certified public accountant to help them file their taxes. For those unable to afford CPA fees or those embarking on tax preparation by themselves, help is available at local libraries and through several IRS-affiliated websites.
“The most common error people make when doing their own taxes is missing deductions that they are eligible for,” said Tawnya Mack, CPA for Mack & Associates in Morris.
Mack said low-income residents are especially encouraged to seek help from a tax preparer because they could be eligible for substantial tax credits.
“They could just check a box wrong and miss out on a lot of money,” Mack said. “There are earned income tax credits available, and if you’re not going to a preparer, you may be missing those.”
Those filing on their own should also be aware of basic, but often overlooked, deductions. A commonly missed deduction is charitable donations, said Cathy Macchietto, owner of Macchietto & Roth Company in Morris.
“People will often undervalue their charitable donations by not keeping a detailed record of their donations,” Macchietto said. “They should keep a record of every item and the item’s value.”
Macchietto also urged residents to beware of scams from individuals claiming to be the IRS.
“Over the years, I’ve had a few people receive emails claiming they were from the IRS,” Macchietto said. “As far as I know, the IRS has never sent out an email, so if you receive those emails, they are most likely scams.”
Resources for self-preparers
Those with a gross income less than $58,000 can receive free tax preparation through the IRS’s Free File program. As part of the program, 14 commercial tax software companies have made their products available, for free, to low-income tax filers.
Each company has its own low-income eligibility criteria, but generally, a person making less than $58,000 would be eligible for free, online tax preparation software from TurboTax, H & R Block, ezTaxReturn and others.
Although the software is fairly comprehensive, Macchietto said they may not be the best option for those with complicated returns.
“I am sure those work very well for simple, individual returns,” Macchietto said. “But for people with a few more complications in their life, they may not be the best option.”
The Senior Services Center of Will County will be stationed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at Coal City Public Library and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at Morris Area Public Library.
Tax representatives will be available to anyone, free of charge, to help with questions or prepare simple returns.
The group will continue those hours at each library location until April 9.
Get help with tax preparationWhat: Professionals will answer tax-related questions and prepare simple returnsWhen: Every Tuesday and Wednesday of the month until April 9Where: Every Tuesday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Coal City Public Library; Every Wednesday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m at Morris Area Public LibraryWho: Representatives from Senior Services Center of Will CountyCost: Free