Monday, March 10, 2008

Tax reminders for final five-week stretch

MADISON, Wis. (3/10/08)--With five weeks to go before the April 15 tax filing deadline, don't overlook free help, Web resources, and e-filing benefits, says the Credit Union National Association.

If you haven't yet filed, there's still plenty of time to make sure you send in an accurate form and get a speedy refund if you're entitled to one:

Pick up the phone. For questions about your federal tax return, call the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Help Line at 800-829-1040 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) on weekdays.

Note that Alaska and Hawaii follow Pacific Time. To order tax forms, call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). To check the status of your return, call 800-829-1954. For recorded messages on more than 100 tax topics, call 800-829-4477. Individuals with hearing impairments can call 800-829-4059 to ask questions or order forms.

Use online valuation guides. To help you figure the tax value of any donated goods, use the fair market value range in the Salvation Army's valuation guide at Or, search online for the Goodwill guide to donating for your state. Tax law now requires that donated items must be in good or better condition. Some tax prep software provides valuation help.

File electronically. If you're expecting a refund, e-filing clearly is the preferred method ( March 3). Of the 46.9 million returns filed by Feb. 22, roughly 38 million were filed electronically--5% more than those filed by the same time last year. The benefits include fewer errors, greater tax accuracy, and faster refunds. Best of all: It's safe and secure.

Use Free-File, if eligible. If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $54,000 or less, you can file your federal return for free via the IRS Free File program. There are several options, so read each one carefully to make sure you qualify. And always access the Free-File program from the website.

Opt for direct deposit. Of the 46.9 million taxpayers who had filed their 2007 returns by Feb. 22, about 33 million opted for direct deposit (Internal Revenue Service March 3). The average refund was $2,708, up 2% from the same time last year.

Use split refund. You can direct your refund to as many as three accounts, including an individual retirement account.

Stick with .gov. Don't become a victim of tax scams that mimic legitimate websites. If the purported IRS website you're viewing ends in .com, .net, .org, or any designation other than .gov, don't use it.

For more information, watch the video "Getting Tax Records Organized" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

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