Tax specialists urge filers to keep their guard up against fraudulent activity
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - According to the Internal Revenue Service, we’re just days away from the official start of tax season.
Jan. 24 is when the IRS will begin accepting and processing individual 2021 tax returns. This year, there are a few changes, and you must keep your guard up to protect your identity.
Around this time of year, checking the right boxes on tax paperwork is crucial as taxpayers prepare to file their yearly returns.
“Spend wisely, that’s all I can say,” said early filer Anquinette McDonald.
Aside from wise spending, tax specialists are singing the same tune of being wise when sharing your personal information, such as social security numbers, birth certificates and even addresses.
“Clients should lookout for what they call ghost tax return preparers,” said Shaccara McNair. “These are tax preparers who say they can do your taxes, but they do not have a PTIN or anything aligned with IRS credentials, which are required to file taxes.”
For the past 16 years, Shaccara, with Excellent Tax Pros in Hattiesburg, has specialized in taxes filing taxes. During those years, she and her business partner, Stephanie McNair, became vigilant to fraudulent activity.
“One of the most red flags that stick out to me is when you do not have a copy of your paperwork,” said Stephanie.
Stephanie said there should never be any hidden charges.
“Choosing the right person, you have to realize you’re giving away your whole life to someone. It has to be someone you really trust,” said Stephanie
Everything on your taxes should be in black in white, from the amount you’re getting back to what your tax preparer is charging for services.
“When we do taxes, we have a bank sheet. It has the amount before any fees are taken out and that’s the amount you’ll use to search the IRS.gov. At the bottom of that sheet, it will also have the actual amount you’ll be getting back after fees are taken out,” said Stephanie.
When you file your taxes, there are five different filing statuses according to the IRS:
- Married filing jointly,
- Married filing separately,
- Head of household and
- Qualifying widow with dependent child.
Before filing, you must have all the important documents. Most importantly but not limited to Proof of identification; Social security cards for you, your spouse, and dependents and any 2021 Wage and Earning Statements (W2s).
Shaccarra added that you should also be on the lookout for important documents in the mail.
“You will be looking for two forms in the mail. There will be one for the Child Tax Credit payment and there will also be one for the Economic Impact payment. Which was the third round of the $1,400 that you got for yourself and your dependent. Please don’t throw those letters away you’ll need to bring those in to file as well and once you get those letters you should be good to go,” said Shaccara.
Those two payments were a part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to help families get back on their feet during the pandemic.
“Just during the pandemic, it was a lot going on and we needed the extra money, so we took advantage of it and we got it,” said Mcdonald as she filed her taxes.
From July to December in 2021, many parents, like McDonald, received half of their Advance Child Tax Credit payment to keep them afloat during tough times last year.
Tax preparers want filers to remember if they received those payments, they will only see the other half of the CTC amount on their refund.
“It did increase from $2,000 to $3,600 if the child is under five, and if the child is over five, it was still $3,000. So, what they did was give you six months of payments but you’re still due six more months. But those who didn’t opt-out you’re still going to have an increase,” said Stephanie.
Filing online is an option, but tax preparers stress that people be extra careful.
According to the IRS, filing electronically and selecting direct deposit will speed up receiving your refund.
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