While the deadline to file and/or pay your taxes was extended to April 17 this year, many Americans look forward to receiving a tax refund check from the government. During this tax season, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Chicago and Northern Illinois advises taxpayers to use caution when filing returns to avoid making common mistakes and to use caution when selecting tax preparation help to avoid headaches and mounting fines or fees if the return isn’t correct or filed late.
Consumers continue to use the BBB for advice on tax preparation services they can trust. The referral organization experienced a 122-percent increase in the number of individuals who researched Tax Return Preparation; that’s 7,542 inquiries for this 12 month period compared to 3,396 for the previous 12 months.
“A tax refund can provide much-needed aid for families enduring financial hardship,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Your BBB advises the public to fill out their tax return forms carefully to help ensure they don’t make mistakes at a time when they can least afford it.”
The BBB offers the following tips for individuals still working on their returns:
• Research tax preparers you can trust for free at www.bbb.org
• Be wary of Tax Refund Anticipation Loans. This is a loan provided by a third party against a taxpayer's expected refund. The tax refund anticipation loan is not provided by the U.S. Treasury or the IRS and is subject to the interest and fees set by the lender. Some of these lenders have hidden fees and file inaccurate tax returns without consumer consent;
• Check for missing, incorrect or illegible Social Security Numbers which can delay a tax refund;
• Taxpayers must sign and date returns. Both spouses must sign a joint return, even with one income. Anyone paid to prepare a return must also sign;
• File electronically instead of using paper tax forms to receive your refund more rapidly;
• Make any check out to “United States Treasury” and enclose it with, but don't attach it to, your return or Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher. Include your Social Security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and the type of form filed;
• If you are behind, get an extension for your return. By April 17, you should have either filed a return or requested an extension of time to file. Remember, the extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay;
• Be sure to keep all receipts and other documents and forms that were used in preparing your tax return. The IRS has three years to audit a return. They can audit you without limitation if you do not file, file a false return, or purposely avoid paying taxes;
• If you notice a mistake on your prepared federal tax return, you can make changes by filing a 1040X. You have three years after filing to correct your return with this form.
For more advice on finding professionals you can trust, visit http://www.bbb.org/
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.