Local tax experts offer tips

Published 11:08 pm Thursday, April 7, 2011

With Tax Day fast approaching, tax experts in Suffolk offered a few tips for people getting ready to file their returns.

Joette Claude, a tax preparer with C.E.B. Financial Services, said it is important for last-minute filers to be sure they gather all the necessary information and paperwork.

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“People seem to panic as they get closer,” she said. “When you panic, you have more of a tendency of making an error.”

In addition to making errors, Claude said it is easier to miss deductions if you don’t have all your documents ready and in order. If you are unsure if something can be deducted, she said you should bring it, just in case it can.

Claude said the most common deduction missed by taxpayers is mileage, time spent traveling, especially for people who have two jobs or go to school in addition to a job.

“Mileage can make a difference,” she said. “Especially if you itemize.”

Claude said many people think they can only itemize if they own a home, but that’s not always the case.

Manager Shannon Saunders of Liberty Tax Service on North Main Street said many of the people who are filing late in the season owe on their taxes.

She said she has met a lot of people who have not had enough taxes taken out during the year, and to avoid that from happening, taxpayers should make sure they are claiming the right number of exemptions in their taxes.

Claude said people who owe something but know they will not be able to pay the amount in time should request an installment agreement, using form 9465, as soon as possible to avoid penalties.

However, if you are already making payments, you should not file this form because it risks your current agreement, she said.

In those cases, the taxpayer should contact the IRS for assistance.

For those filing an extension, Claude said it will not give you more time to pay if you owe — you still need to pay the amount owed by the deadline.

If the taxpayer does not have everything needed to file the return, he or she should go ahead and file an extension, she said.

“If they go ahead a file the extension and find how much they owe, at least they have now until the 18th to get the payment in,” Claude said.

Another concern Claude has encountered is people being told they do not have to file taxes for a variety of reasons.

If you are not sure whether or not you need to file your taxes, ask someone, she said.

“Don’t assume because of your age and you’re retired that you don’t have to file,” she said.

Finally, Claude said taxpayers need to take their time, look over their returns and ask questions of their preparers. Above all, she said, do not panic.

“I tell my clients, ‘Don’t sweat until you see me sweating,’” Claude said. “Don’t panic because you’re going to be more apt to make mistakes.”