Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Choosing a Tax Return Preparer

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1 Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Choosing a Tax Return Preparer

2 Choosing a Tax Return Preparer If you plan to pay a preparer, please review the following points to ensure your return is correctly filed

3 Before Choosing a Tax Return Preparer Inform yourself of credits (e.g. EITC) you may be eligible for and new rules for taxpayers The Coalition for Family Economic Progress provides free workshops in English and Spanish on tax credits and debt forgiveness

4 Choosing a Tax Return Preparer Tip #1 A Paid Preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form Your preparer should also include his/her identifying number on your return and provide you with a copy of the form

5 Choosing a Tax Return Preparer Tip #2 Please review your completed return to ensure all tax information as well as your name, address, and Social Security Number(s) are correct Tip #3 Before you sign, review every entry and ask for clarification until you are comfortable with the accuracy of the return

6 Choosing a Tax Return Preparer Tip #4 Never sign a blank return and never sign in pencil Tip #5 Do not allow your preparer to place your refund within their account Please remember: You are responsible for the accuracy of your return even if someone else prepared it

7 How We Can Help We encourage you to use our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to prepare your return This service is completely free!

8 What is the VITA Program? The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help for people with low to moderate incomes (generally $49,000 and below) VITA volunteers receive training by the IRS to help prepare basic tax returns

9 What is the VITA Program? For your convenience, there are VITA sites situated throughout El Paso All of our VITA sites provide e-filing and bilingual assistance With us, you can receive your refund in half the time compared to a paper return

10 What Do I Need To Bring to the VITA Site? When you visit the VITA site please bring: Proof of identification Social Security cards for you, your spouse, and your dependents Birth dates for you, your spouse, and your dependents Form W-2, W-2G, and 1099 A copy of last year s return Bank routing number and account number for Direct Deposit Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider s tax identifying number

11 Keep In Mind Set aside a fair amount of time to prepare your return VITA volunteers wish to ensure your return is properly completed; their questions will help determine your qualifications for certain credits You have rights as a taxpayer We want you to have a smooth experience

12 Additional Options In addition to VITA, you may file your return through: A qualified tax professional or The IRS Free File program

13 Caution Hiring an unqualified tax preparer may cause you to pay more tax than you should and/or cause you to incur penalties and interest

14 Hiring a Qualified Tax Professional The following suggestions seek to help you find a qualified tax professional Avoid preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers Beware of preparers who guarantee results or who base their fees on a percentage of the refund

15 Hiring a Qualified Tax Professional Understand that the most reputable preparers will request to see your receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your qualifications for expenses and deductions and, therefore, help you avoid penalties and additional taxes

16 Hiring a Qualified Tax Professional Choose a preparer you will be able to contact and one who will be responsive to your needs Avoid firms where your return may be given to someone with less training Ask who will prepare your return. You should know exactly who works with your tax matters and how to contact him or her

17 Hiring a Qualified Tax Professional Determine if the preparer is exporting your return to a foreign country for preparation. (Foreign countries don t have the same security and privacy laws as the U.S.) Investigate the status of your preparer by visiting the Better Business Bureau or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)

18 Hiring a Qualified Tax Professional Determine if the preparer s credentials meet your needs. Is your preparer an Enrolled Agent, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a Tax Attorney Note: Only attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents can represent you before the IRS in all matters

19 Hiring a Qualified Tax Professional Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides/requires its members to pursue continuing education and holds them accountable to a code of ethics Visit IRS.gov for information regarding abusive tax shelters and tax schemes and scams

20 IRS Free File The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides eligible taxpayers (those with an adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less) a way to prepare and file their return electronically Their Free File program is a fast, easy, and inexpensive way to complete your federal return

21 IRS Free File Free File is a useful tool that Asks simple questions Does all the math for you Checks for accuracy Provides access to federal tax forms and schedules May offer state tax preparation

22 IRS Free File Please visit IRS.gov to access their Free File program and begin working on your return

23 Wait! I Need to Make a Change to my Return Please don t become anxious if you committed a mistake Usually, math errors are caught in the process If you didn t attach a required schedule, the IRS will contact you asking for the information

24 Changing My Return If you didn t report all your income or didn t claim a credit, please file an amended or corrected return using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

25 Changing My Return When you file an amended or corrected return, please include copies of any schedules that have changed Generally, to claim a refund, Form 1040X must be received within three years from when the form was filed Please allow 8-12 weeks for the IRS to process your amended return

26 After Filing Your Return The following are suggestions for once you have filed your return: Consider how you will use your refund. You may wish to save a portion for an emergency Consider whether you were satisfied with your preparer and how the experience might be improved

27 After Filing Your Return Store your documents, including your W- 2 and your 1099, within a safe place. You may wish to scan your documents and save them unto a CD View the progress of your refund by visiting IRS.gov Keep in mind that life events such as getting married, having a child, and beginning a new job will impact your next tax return

28 Using Your Refund: El Paso Affordable Housing and You El Paso Affordable Housing seeks to help you develop family wealth and financial stability The following suggestions seek to help you make the most of your refund

29 Using Your Refund You may wish to use your refund to pay off debt. If you don t know where to start, our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) can help You can begin saving by opening a savings account or reach your goals by opening an Individual Development Account (IDA)

30 Using Your Refund Want to purchase a new home? Apply a part or all of your refund for a down payment and use the El Paso Credit Union s down payment assistance to finance your home Whatever you choose, we hope we can help!

31 Remember If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it isn t true Don t fall victim to tax scams

32 Being Alert: Scams Unfortunately, there are some people who use the IRS name or logo to try to gain access to your financial information in order to steal your identity and assets These people or scammers will use regular mail, telephone, fax, and/or to set up their victims

33 Am I a Target for Scams? If you have a computer, phone, or fax machine you could receive a scam message or unknowingly visit a false IRS website

34 Watch for Phishing Phishing is a scam where scammers fish for information and try to hook their victims These scams often take the form of an and appear to be legitimate. They often state you re due a refund from last year s return

35 Watch for Phishing Phishing scams may also ask you to open an attachment or click on a link. This may lead you to a form to be filled online or a bogus website Clicking the link may download malware, a destructive code that can take over your computer s hard drive and give a scammer access to your files

36 Watch for Callers Do not give sensitive personal and/or financial information over the phone If someone claiming to be an IRS Agent asks for your information, request their name and identification number and tell them you will contact the agency yourself

37 The IRS and Scams Generally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not send unsolicited s to taxpayers Furthermore, the IRS does not discuss tax information via or use to ask for sensitive financial and personal information In addition, the IRS does not request PIN numbers from taxpayers

38 The IRS and Scams Please note that the official website for the Internal Revenue Service is IRS.gov and that all IRS.gov web pages will begin with Please be wary of websites that end with a.com, a.net, or a.org and that pretend to be part of the IRS

39 How to Spot a Scam Many scams are fairly sophisticated and hard to detect Nevertheless, there are signs you can watch out for

40 How to Spot a Scam Be wary of an that: Requests detailed or an unusual amount of personal and/or financial information (e.g. your name, your SSN, bank account number, or credit card number) Dangles bait to get you to respond, such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay you for completing a survey

41 How to Spot a Scam Threatens a consequence if you don t respond, such as additional taxes or blocking access to your funds Misspells the name of the agency Uses incorrect grammar or odd phrasing Uses a really long address in a link or one that does not start with the actual IRS website address

42 What To Do If you receive a suspicious claiming to come from the IRS you should: Avoid clicking on any attachments Avoid clicking on any links Forward the suspicious or url address to the IRS mailbox: and then delete the from your inbox

43 What To Do If you believe you or someone you know may be a victim of identity theft or another scam, please visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission s website for guidance You may also use the El Paso Police Department s Identity Theft Victim s Packet at no charge

44 Keep In Mind El Paso Affordable Housing Wants you to receive your complete refund and avoid paying preparation fees Wants to protect you from abusive tax preparers Wants to protect your personal and financial future

45 Thank You! El Paso Affordable Housing A Credit Union Service Organization El Paso, Texas Viscount Blvd

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