Are you one of the many Americans who has not filed your income taxes yet? There are only a few short days left, so I interviewed an expert to find out some last minute tax tips. Here is my interview with Laura Scherler, the Director of Income Capacity Building at United Way Worldwide.
Lisa LaGrou – Oakland County Moms: With the filing deadline just around the corner, what tax tips should people be aware of these last few days of tax season?
Laura Scherler – Director of Income Capacity Building for United Way Worldwide: Well, Lisa, you’re right…the April 15th deadline is right around the corner. So, it’s important for people to keep in mind that deadline and to make sure they can file their taxes by April 15th if possible. If you can’t file your taxes by April 15th, you can go online to the IRS’s website and file an extension, but that is not actually an extension for time to pay your taxes. So, if you owe money to the IRS, you will have to go ahead and pay by April 15th or pay as much as you can afford, and then work with the IRS on a payment plan. But, if it’s at all possible for you to file your taxes by April 15th, go ahead and do so.
Lisa LaGrou – Oakland County Moms: What do you suggest if someone would rather file their own taxes than go through a service?
Laura Scherler – Director of Income Capacity Building for United Way Worldwide: I actually think that the online products that are out there now make it really easy for people to file their own taxes. Most of the software programs that are out there online are interview based, which means that they ask people a series of questions to determine their eligibility for different tax credits that are out there, and that makes it much easier for people to file their taxes. It takes the guesswork out of a lot of it. It also does all the calculations for you and checks the accuracy of your return at the end. So, when you click “File,” you can feel confident that your return is correct and that it will be quickly accepted by the IRS. So, if people have the ability to file their taxes online, I think that’s the easiest way and it’s also a really affordable option.
Lisa LaGrou – Oakland County Moms: All the commercials try to put the fear in us by saying we’re leaving tons of money on the table by doing our own taxes. How can you make sure you claim the right credits in your return? How do you know if you qualify, and how can you be sure not to miss any?
Laura Scherler – Director of Income Capacity Building for United Way Worldwide: There are a number of tax credits out there that people commonly overlook. The best and most comprehensive list of those tax credits is on the IRS’s website. There’s the tab on their home page called “Credits and Deductions” and that provides a list of all the tax credits that are out there, as well as the eligibility requirements. If you are going to do your taxes yourself, you should familiarize yourself with that list of credits so when you sit down to do your taxes, you have that in the back of your mind and you can make sure you’re clicking on those forms and completing those sets of questions so you get those credits if you qualify for them. Again, most of the software programs out there will walk you through those things to make sure that you get them. But, the two that I would encourage people to make sure that they look at are the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. These can often provide substantial benefits to workers, particularly those with children.
Lisa LaGrou – Oakland County Moms: If someone is having a difficult time affording this, who is eligible to receive free tax services and where can they go for more information?
Laura Scherler – Director of Income Capacity Building for United Way Worldwide: MyFreeTaxes.com is a project from United Way Worldwide, Goodwill Industries International, The National Disability Institute, and the Walmart Foundation. And, we provide free federal and state returns for individuals and families that earn $58,000 or less. So, if you meet that income guideline, I would encourage you to go online to our website, which is MyFreeTaxes.com and file your federal and state returns online for free.
Lisa LaGrou – Oakland County Moms: That’s a great online option. What are some other benefits to filing online?
Laura Scherler Director of Income Capacity Building for United Way Worldwide: I think there are two key benefits. The first is that if you file online and get your return via direct deposit, you can get your refund in as little as 7-10 days. It can be very quick. And, I know that for a lot of families, having that money as quickly as possible is really important. I think the second key benefit is the fact that it will do all the calculations for you and will check the accuracy of your return. That takes a lot of the anxiety out of taxes for people because they know when they submit their return that it’s correct.
MORE ABOUT LAURA SCHERLER:
Laura Scherler, National Director, Financial Stability, United Way Worldwide – Laura Scherler is the Director of Financial Stability at United Way Worldwide. During her nine-year tenure, Laura has led the creation and implementation of several multi-million dollar initiatives designed to increase the financial stability of low and moderate-income families. Laura currently leads United Way’s free tax preparation initiatives and was one of the creators of the MyFreeTaxes partnership.
For more information about MyFreeTaxes, please visit www.MyFreeTaxes.com.