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At Tax Time, Seek Help From the Right Places

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By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Every year I encourage taxpayers to avoid financial products with fees that cut into the amount of their tax refunds.

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For example, I loathe refund anticipation loans, or RALs, which are short-term cash advances backed by a tax refund. In this economy, keeping every penny of your tax refund is even more important because so many are struggling with less income or no income. Don't nickel-and-dime away your money because you can't wait for your refund.

As we get closer to the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns, there are a number of things I want to point out.

First, on March 21, the Internal Revenue Service will again hold its Super Saturday, a day in which IRS employees will help prepare basic 2008 tax returns for those who qualify for the earned income tax credit or whose yearly income is less than $42,000. With money tight for a lot of folks, this free service is much needed and much welcome. Additionally, regardless of income, people can visit the centers if they are unable to pay their tax bills and need help with a payment plan.

"The IRS truly wants to go the extra mile to help taxpayers during these difficult economic times," said Jim Dupree, IRS spokesman for Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Among other services provided on Super Saturday, tax filers will be able to get copies of tax returns and assistance with letters, notices and levies on their wages or bank accounts.

"Because of the economic downturn, many financially distressed taxpayers may be in need of free services. Our Super Saturday service will make it a little easier for people to get that help," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "Our Super Saturday service will help people get their refunds quickly. Also, if you think you owe taxes and can't pay, please come in and talk to us about it. There are steps we can take to help."

If you want help on March 21, make sure you bring all of the proper documents and tax information, such as proof of identification, your W-2 form or forms, last year's tax return and your bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit, which speeds up your tax refund.

A list of IRS offices and partner sites providing assistance across the country on Super Saturday will be available at http://www.irs.gov. You can also call the IRS at 800-906-9887 for the free assistance locations. IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time.

Other tax tips:

-- Make sure you are filing the right information about the recovery rebate credit. The IRS said an early sampling of tax returns found about 15 percent have errors involving this credit. The recovery rebate credit is a one-time benefit for people who didn't receive the full economic stimulus payment last year but are eligible now because their circumstances have changed. Some tax filers erroneously claim the credit, do not claim the proper amount of the recovery rebate credit, or mistakenly enter the amount of the stimulus payment they received on the recovery rebate credit line, the IRS said.


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