tax filing tips

With Tax Day (April 15, 2019) less than two weeks away, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs and the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy is offering Tennesseans the following tips to help navigate the income tax filing process, make the most of their income tax refund and avoid fraudulent tax preparers and scammers.

1. Get your refund fast through direct deposit.
Did you know that your income tax refund can be electronically deposited into your financial account for free? The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can automatically deposit your refund into up to three separate accounts if you set up direct deposit when you file your return. Direct deposit gives you access to your refund faster than a paper check.

2. File your tax return for free.
If your income is $54,000 or less, if you are 60 years old or older, or if you have a disability or speak limited English, you can generally get free tax return preparation assistance at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location near you. In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those 60 and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

If you decide to do it yourself:

  • If your adjusted gross income is $66,000 or less, you can use any one of several major tax return preparation software products, offered through the Free File Alliance, to prepare and file your return for free. The Free File Alliance is a nonprofit coalition of industry-leading tax software companies partnered with the IRS to help taxpayers prepare and e-file their federal tax returns for free. If your adjusted gross income is more than $66,000, you can still download free tax filing forms from the IRS’s website.
  • There are many easy-to-use tax return preparation software products on the market that will help you walk through the tax return filing process step-by-step. These are not free, but they may be less expensive than paying someone to file your return for you.

Tip: Depending on your age, income and filing status, you may not be required to file a return. Check the IRS’s guidelines to see if you are required to file a tax return.

3. Beware of potential tax fraud.
the majority of tax preparers are honest, tax fraud does occur. Unfortunately, the IRS reports that tax fraud has become increasingly common, but there are several steps consumers can take to protect themselves:

  • File electronically and request that your refund be deposited directly into your account. Direct deposit avoids the possibility that your check could be stolen. However, beware of this new twist on a scam involving erroneous tax refund deposits.
  • Vet your Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Check to ensure your CPA is properly licensed by visiting verify.tn.gov. If you have questions, contact the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy.
  • Stay alert for scam phone calls from criminals intent on stealing your money or your identity. Remember, the IRS will never:
    -Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
    -Demand immediate payment via a prepaid gift card or wire transfer without first sending you a bill in the mail and giving you an opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
    -Require you to use a specific payment method for taxes, like a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
    -Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.
    -Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft involving your income tax return, report it to the IRS. Imposter scams and identity theft are among the leading complaints of Tennesseans, according to a new report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Consumers can find more detailed information about tax refund scams, by visiting the IRS website. For more consumer tips and resources, visit www.tn.gov/consumer.

About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance:
TDCI protects the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight and a level field of competition for a broad array of industries and professionals doing business in Tennessee. Our divisions include the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Insurance, Securities, Consumer Affairs, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Regulatory Boards, Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, Tennessee Corrections Institute, and TennCare Oversight.

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