We're in the final weeks before the 2019 tax deadline. And with all the changes to tax laws this year, a lot of taxpayers still have a lot of questions, and not much time left to get it all resolved.
It's tough to think about taxes on a beautiful spring day.
Three taxpayers we spoke with on Cincinnati's Hyde Park Square told us they have not yet filed, either because they expect to owe the IRS money or because they still have questions about all the changes to the tax laws this year.
But the IRS advises taxpayers not to wait much longer, because a whole lot has changed this year.
The agency says that based on the 12% increase in calls and inquiries to its online help center it has received, a lot of people have a lot of questions.
What taxpayers are asking now
So we sat down with the IRS spokesman Luis Garcia and Special Agent in Charge William Cheung for answers to the biggest concerns they're hearing from taxpayers in the final weeks.
- Are refunds delayed due to the government shutdown?
Garcia said "the biggest question we are getting is, 'When do I get my refund?' People think they are delayed."
But he says some were late in the first few weeks, immediately after the January shutdown, but says most people will now get their refunds in about two weeks.
- Is it true most people getting smaller refunds due to the new tax law?
"We've got some people because of the tax law changes that unexpectedly owe money," Garcia said.
But he said on average, refunds are just down slightly from last year. There is no widespread trend of much smaller refunds, as was feared back in January.
- Will the IRS ever call you, saying you are behind on your taxes?
No. The IRS will never, ever call to threaten you with arrest, or demand immediate payment. Those are all scam calls.
"If you get those phone calls, the best thing to do is just hang up," Cheung said.
- Can you still file free?
Yes. "If you make less than $54,000 a year in most cases you qualify for this program," Garcia said.
But he has an important caution: you need to go through the IRS Free File website, not to a private tax preparer's website, where you may be charged a fee.
- Should you itemize your deductions anymore?
Only a tax professional or good tax program can tell you that, based on your income and deductions.
But the IRS says many people no longer need to itemize, now that the standard deduction has almost doubled, from just over $6,000 to $12,000.
- What if you still have lots of questions, and don't know if you can be ready by the 15th?
The IRS reminds us that anyone can get an automatic six month extension, giving you more time to figure things out.
Just remember that you must file an official request, on Form 4868, by Midnight Monday, April 15.
We asked Garcia and Cheung one final question.
- Can IRS agents be good guys?
Sure, they insisted. They were extremely cordial during our chat, and best of all no one in our newsroom got audited or arrested.
As always, don't waste your money.
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