ATLANTA, GA — The tax season officially begins Monday, Jan. 29, when Georgia taxpayers can submit their tax returns, and officials are warning employers and payroll staff about Form W-2 phishing scams. Taxpayers have an extra weekend to compile and submit their tax returns in 2018. And taxpayers who choose to use certain tax credits won’t have their refunds available before mid-February, the Internal Revenue Service says.
The threat of tax fraud, specifically an ongoing email phishing scam, has prompted the Georgia Department of Revenue to upgrade its fraud management system, which blocked over $212 million in fraudulently filed refund requests from being released in 2017, according to a news release. The department will begin processing individual income tax returns on Thursday, Feb. 1.
Nearly 155 million individual tax returns expected to be filed in 2018. The nation’s tax deadline will be April 17 this year – so taxpayers will have two additional days to file beyond April 15. Many software companies and tax professionals have already accepted tax returns and then will submit the returns when IRS systems open. Although the IRS will begin accepting both electronic and paper tax returns Monday, paper returns will begin processing later in mid-February as system updates continue. The IRS encourages people to file their tax returns electronically for faster refunds.
By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit before mid-February. Those returns will be processed when they are received by the IRS, but authorities say the earliest EITC/ACTC related money will be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards is Feb. 27. And that date only applies if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.
Victims of last year’s hurricanes, especially those who lived in areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. According to IRS officials, many people whose incomes dropped in 2017 may be eligible to choose a special option for figuring the tax credit, a credit for low- and moderate-income workers and families.
April 17 Filing Deadline
Because of a holiday in the nation’s capital, the filing deadline to submit 2016 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, 2018, rather than the traditional April 15 date, which falls on a Sunday. The Internal Revenue Service says that normally would push the filing deadline to the following Monday, April 16, but Washington, D.C., will celebrate the legal holiday of Emancipation Day on Monday, April 16.
Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation. That, in turn, pushes the federal tax deadline to Tuesday, April 17, for the nation.
Employers must have W-2 and 1099 forms sent out by Jan. 31.
How Fast Will I Get My Income Tax Refund in Georgia?
Reminders for both Georgia residents and businesses:
- It may take more than 90 days from the date of receipt by Department of Revenue to process a return and issue a refund.
- All first-time Georgia income tax filers, or taxpayers who have not filed in Georgia for at least five years, will receive their refund in the form of a paper check.
- Businesses must file employee W-2 information with Department of Revenue by January 31.
- Employers who file late may face penalties, and will slow the processing of their employees’ tax returns.
“Combatting tax fraud is especially important considering the amount of personal information that has been compromised over the past few years with several large-scale data breaches,” said DOR Commissioner Lynne Riley, in a statement. “Receiving employee W-2 information from businesses by January 31, greatly increases the Department’s confidence when issuing individual income tax refunds.”
Warnings About Tax Scams
Taxpayers can protect themselves several ways.
- Do not provide personal information by mail, phone, email, or text to an unknown person.
- File your tax return early – and file electronically.
- Be sure you have all W-2s and other withholding statements before you file.
- Watch for signs that an unauthorized person may have filed a return using your name or Social Security number:
- More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
- You receive an unexpected assessment or notice indicating that you owe additional tax.
- You receive a federal or state tax refund that you didn’t request.
- You had collection actions taken against you that you didn’t expect, and the information doesn’t appear to be valid.
- The IRS notified you that a false federal return was filed.
Tips To Avoid Scams
A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling, authorities say.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Taxpayers may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Note that the IRS doesn’t:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Warnings on Phishing Scams
IRS officials warn taxpayers to be alert to phone and email phishing scams that try to trick victims into divulging their personal information. The IRS says it has been working with the tax industry and state revenue departments to continue strengthening processing systems to protect taxpayers from identity theft and refund fraud.
Scammers will call or email taxpayers to verify the last four digits of their Social Security number by clicking on a link provided in an email, which claims that recent data breaches across the nation may be involved.
Government offices do not send emails like this, authorities said.
Taxpayers should not reply to emails requesting confidential information, especially your Social Security number, birth date, salary information or home address. If you receive an email asking for a copy of your W-2 form, you should immediately contact your employer.
Refunds in 2018
Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund. The IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, but there are some important factors to keep in mind.
As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should also submit returns as they normally do – including returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit.
Errors delay refunds and the easiest way to avoid them is to e-file. Combining direct deposit with electronic filing is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their refund. With direct deposit, a refund goes directly into a taxpayer’s bank account.
There are several e-file options:
Where’s My Refund? on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app will be updated with projected deposit dates for early Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit refund filers in February. Taxpayers will not see a refund date on Where’s My Refund? or through their software packages until then.
Before you file, the IRS has these tips to help you.
- Gather your records. Make sure you have all your tax records. This includes receipts, canceled checks and other records that support income, deductions or tax credits that you claim. If you purchased health insurance through the Marketplace, you will need the information in Form 1095-A to file.
- Report all your income. You will need to report your income from all of your Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statements, Forms 1099 and any other income – even if you don’t receive a statement – when you file your tax return.
- Try IRS Free File. Free File is available only on IRS.gov. If you made $62,000 or less, you can use free tax software to file your federal return. If you earned more, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms.
- Try IRS e-file. Electronic filing is the best way to file a tax return. It’s accurate, safe and easy. If you owe taxes, you have the option to e-file early and pay by April 17 to avoid penalties and interest.
- Use Direct Deposit. The fastest and safest way to get your refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit. The IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.
- Review your return. Mistakes slow down your tax refund. If you file a paper return, be sure to check all Social Security numbers. That’s one of the most common errors.
- Visit IRS.gov. The website has forms and other info you need to file your tax return. Click on the “Filing” icon for links to filing tips, answers to frequently asked questions and IRS forms and publications. The IRS has many online tools on IRS.gov to help you file and answer your tax questions. The tool gives the same answers that an IRS representative would give over the phone.
Help for Taxpayers
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly offer free tax help to people who qualify. Go to irs.gov and enter “free tax prep” in the search box to learn more and find a nearby VITA or TCE site, or download the IRS2Go smartphone app to find a free tax prep provider.
The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a trusted tax professional can provide helpful information and advice about the ever-changing tax code. Tips for choosing a return preparer and details about national tax professional groups are available on IRS.gov.
The IRS also reminds taxpayers that they should keep copies of their prior-year tax returns for at least three years. Taxpayers who are changing tax software products this filing season will need their adjusted gross income from their 2015 tax return in order to file electronically. The Electronic Filing Pin is no longer an option. Taxpayers can visit IRS.Gov/GetReady for more tips on preparing to file their 2016 tax return.
Renewal Reminder for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINS)
Some people with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number may need to renew it before the end of the year to avoid a refund delay and possible loss of key tax benefits. ITINs are used by people who have tax-filing or payment obligations under U.S. law but are not eligible for a Social Security number. Under a recent change in law, any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years expired on Dec. 31, 2017.
These ITINs expired last month:
- ITINs not used on a tax return in the past three years.
- ITINs with middle digits 70, 71, 72 or 80.
Anyone who needs to renew an ITIN should submit a completed Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. They should mail the Form W-7, along with original identification documents or copies certified by the issuing agency. Once an individual files a completed form, it typically takes about seven weeks to receive an ITIN assignment letter from the IRS.
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