Tax Time Tips to File Your Return and Get the Greatest Refund

A woman holding tax forms and a calculatorIt’s that time of year again – March is upon us and the IRS April 18 deadline to file your tax return is only five weeks away.  It’s time to gather up all your documents, complete your paperwork and make the most of your tax refund this year.  Goodwill offers some timely tips to make the filing process easier and ensure you get all the money back you deserve this tax season:
Take a Look Back at 2010. Before you file your taxes, think about any changes you made over the past year that might affect your tax return.  Has your employment, marital or housing status changed in 2010?  If so, make sure to update your filing status.  The IRS Interactive Tax Assistant provides key information regarding any life changes and other tax laws.
Organize Your Records. In addition to your W-2, 1099 forms and other statements you need to claim your tax return, make sure you collect bills, receipts, statements and proof of payments for other education, child care, transportation and other expenses.  If you can prove these expenses, you might be eligible for additional tax credits that can increase the amount of money you get back from the IRS.
Focus on Free Filing Options. Instead of paying high tax preparation fees or purchasing predatory products like Refund Anticipation Loans (RALS), take advantage of free and low-cost services to get your taxes done.  If you make $49,000 or less, you are eligible to go to your nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site where you can meet with a trained VITA volunteer who will prepare your taxes for free.  If you make $58,000 or less, check out the IRS Free File option where you can e-file your federal return at no cost.
Claim Valuable Tax Credits. Although the tax season can be a stressful time for taxpayers, it is a great opportunity to get money back and boost your finances. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you working and making less than $49,000?  The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can put up to $5,666 in the pockets of working individuals and families across the country.
  • Do you have children?  Working parents can claim up to $1,000 for each child under 17 with the Child Tax Credit (CTC).  If you have been working and paying for child care, the Child and Dependent Care Credit can help you cover those expenses as well.
  • Are you a student or have students in your household? The  American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and Lifetime Learning Credit are available to students to help cover many education expenses..
  • Have you purchased a home in the past year?  Make sure to claim Homebuyer Credit that can be worth up to $8,000 for first-time home owners and $3,250 for married individuals filing separately.  
  • Are you saving for your future?  If you make eligible contributions to a qualified IRA, 401(k) or other retirement plans, you may be eligible for the Savers Credit that is worth up to $1,000 or $2,000 if filing jointly.
  • Are you just learning about tax credits?  Don’t forget to claim your EITC and CTC refunds for up to three previous years!

Track your Tax Refund. Once you have filed your taxes, check out the IRS web site Where’s My Refund? to monitor your refund information for the most current tax year.  If you have a smart phone, you can also use the IRS’ new IRS2GO App to check the status of your refund and get tax updates.
For more information on free tax preparation assistance in your community:

Contact Your Local Goodwill »