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Extra time for filing taxes timely for some

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Lauren Duffy, left, and Dennis Duffy, right, sit down with Tax Specialist Linda Sherman, center, as the couple files their 2018 taxes at Jackson Hewitt Tax Services Monday, April 16, 2018.

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Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Once again, last-minute tax return filers have Abraham Lincoln and the people of Washington, D.C., to thank for the extra time added to this year’s filing deadline for income earned in 2017.

Tax Day usually is April 15. This year, however, it is today, on April 17. Why the two-day extension? Lois Daniels, a tax preparation specialist and office manager at Jackson Hewitt on East Arlington Boulevard in Greenville, explained.

“April 15 fell on Sunday this year. Normally, when the 15th falls on a weekend, the deadline is pushed to Monday, the next business day,” Daniels said. “This year, Monday is Emancipation Day, celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, so the IRS pushed back Tax Day to Tuesday.”

No, Emancipation Day is not a federal holiday, but it is celebrated in Washington, D.C., which affects Tax Day the same way a federal holiday would.

Daniels said most people expecting a refund have their tax returns filed well ahead of the deadline so they can get their refunds quickly, but there are exceptions.

“For most people who wait to file a return, it’s the fear factor of thinking they’re going to have to pay the IRS,” she said. “The best thing to do is file earlier because it gives time to prepare a flexible payment plan with the IRS.”

Dennis and Lauren Duffy of Greenville were at Jackson Hewitt Monday to get guidance and filing help help from tax prep specialist Linda Sherman.

“This year, I transitioned to working for myself as a small business owner,” Dennis Duffy said. “Combined with some scheduling conflicts we encountered during the last couple months, we decided that waiting until now was the best way for us to do our taxes. I’m looking at this (tax preparation service) as an educational experience for us. I might adopt some new approaches as my business grows and, I hope, becomes more profitable.”

Having a tax expert to sit down and talk with  face-to-face has clear benefits for may filers. 

“We talk with each customer about the changes we see in their current situation as we review their tax return together, showing them the differences they actually will see based on what expenses we can see, and we can suggest some things they can do differently to lower the impact on tier tax bill,” Daniels said. “Our job is to help them get the biggest deduction and get the biggest possible refund.”

The IRS has not indicated that it will use private debt collection services this year as it did in 2017, but criminals likely will target taxpayers through a number of scamming methods, according to the agency’s website. A ghost preparer is paid to prepare a tax return but does not sign it as the paid preparer. These phantom preparers who won't put their name on the tax return are a warning sign for taxpayers of a potential scam.

LIberty Tax owner Mike Gurrero said tax filers should be careful about using online tax preparation services.

“I think it’s important to have a good working relationship with a community-based tax preparation expert who you can sit down with and review things,” Gurrero said. “There have been a lot of changes that are not understood by ‘garage-based’ tax preparers or relatives. Tax experts like us stand behind our work and are available year-round. Many people get audit notices and complain that they can’t find the person who did their taxes last year.”

A legitimate tax preparer must be registered with the IRS, pass an annual certification test and bear a personal tax identification number, Haddock said.

A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country, the IRS news site reported. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by phone, email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam. The IRS does not call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.

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