Barely three weeks after the start of this year’s tax filing season, the IRS had received 19 million tax returns, processed 16.8 million of them, and issued eight million refunds each averaging $1,963.
The message – IRS Deputy Commissioner Kevin Moorehead told reporters on an Ethnic Media Services conference call last week – is file your returns sooner rather than later, and do it electronically. Ask that refunds be wired directly into your bank account. The IRS turn-around time will be a lot faster.
The reason is that the Inflation Reduction Act put $80 billion in the IRS bank account to hire 5,000 more telephone assisters and to add more Taxpayer Assistance Centers around the country where you can go for free help to file your taxes.
“We expect more than 168,000,000 individual tax returns to be filed, with the vast majority of those coming in before April 18, the tax deadline date,” Moorehead said.
Although refunds are expected to be somewhat smaller this year because the COVID economic impact payments have ended, Moorehead advised people to file a 2022 return even if you don’t owe taxes.
“While people with income under a certain amount are not generally required to file a tax return, those who qualify for certain tax credits or already paid some federal tax by having taxes withheld from their paycheck may qualify for a tax refund, but they must file in order to get one,” he said.
Don’t leave money on the table, agreed Sue Simon, Director of IRS Customer Assistance.
“What we want to do is ensure that anyone who has not filed a 2021 tax return do so.
But in order to collect unpaid benefits, you have to file both a 2021 and a 2022 return. However you fill out these returns, either electronically or by paper, Simon said it is imperative that you put “Zero” as the amount of your adjusted gross income. Then IRS computers can digest that information and by filing for both years, technical errors can be avoided.
The IRS won’t call you but you can call them on toll free phone lines and get assistance in one of 350 languages. Simon said interpreter services are also available in any of IRS’s 362 taxpayer assistance centers via their telephones.
“There are forms that are commonly used by taxpayers that are available in Spanish, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Haitian, Creole, Vietnamese and Russian,” Simon said.
There are online tools at IRS.gov to help people determine if they are eligible for EITC, a Sales Tax Deduction Calculator to determine how much sales tax is allowed as a deduction in your state. There is the Free File Online Lookup tool that helps taxpayers find the right company to file their tax return under the Free File program. Go to IRS.gov and search the Pick List. There is also a tax withholding estimator tool.
“All of those are available in English as well as those languages that I listed,” she said.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) provides help and counseling to taxpayers, free of charge, especially about EITC and additional Child Tax credits which can be hard to understand, Simon added.
“During the last two years, we had about 50,000 volunteers throughout the United States doing tax returns. This year, as of today, we have 81,000 volunteers in the United States and Puerto Rico preparing free tax returns for individuals and families.”
Simon said the IRS provides information in a way that taxpayers can have faith and trust that their tax return is being done correctly, that there is no scam going on, that there is no fraud. A lot of people used VITA. Last year, VITA volunteers prepared 2.2 million tax returns.
“Each one of these volunteers is trained by the IRS. They are certified. They are tested. So, you know you are getting accurate information,” she said.
There is a Taxpayer Assistance Locator tool at IRS.gov to find the local office where you can set up an appointment and talk to someone in person.
This year is going to be “significantly better” than the last few difficult years of tax returns some of which the IRS is still processing, Moorehead predicted.
You could get more money in your pocket, he says.