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2016 tax season opens Tuesday

Other than the few extra days Americans have been given to file their taxes this year, little has changed when it comes to completing a return and getting it signed, sealed and delivered to to the Internal Revenue Service.

“Last year there was a little more to it because you had to mark whether you had health insurance, which was the first time for that,” explained Janice Krapacs, owner of James Income Tax Service and registered return preparer. “But this year pretty much there are no significant changes or anything different from the way it’s been in the past.”

Tax season officially opens Tuesday as the IRS begins accepting individual electronic returns and processing paper returns. The IRS expects to receive more than 150 million individual returns in 2016.

As of last Thursday, Krapacs had prepared about 15.

“People are ready and for the most part they want their returns done as soon as possible,” she said.

IRS officials said they expect more than four out of five returns to be prepared using tax return preparation software and e-filed.

“We look forward to opening the 2016 tax season on time,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “Our employees have been working hard throughout this year to make this happen. We also appreciate the help from the nation’s tax professionals and the software community, who are critical to helping taxpayers during the filing season.”

The filing deadline to submit 2015 tax returns is April 18 rather than the traditional April 15 date. Washington, D.C., will celebrate Emancipation Day on that Friday, which pushes the deadline to the following Monday for most of the nation. Because of Patriots Day, the deadline is April 19 in Maine and Massachusetts.

Krapacs, who is in her 39th year of preparing returns, said this year taxpayers are especially concerned about identity theft, particularly when they file online.

“I think that’s the biggest concern, and it’s been a big issue this year so far,” she said. “Some people don’t seem to realize when they file online their returns are not going directly to the IRS, but somewhere else first and then forwarded to the IRS. They need to be aware of that and take steps to protect their identity from theft. My office is entirely secure whether on paper or computer-wise. We’ve taken those steps.”

IRS officials said that as part of the Security Summit initiative, they have been working closely with the tax industry and state revenue departments to provide stronger protections against identity theft for taxpayers.

Koskinen noted the new legislation makes permanent many provisions and extends many others for several years.

“This provides certainty for planning purposes, which will help taxpayers and the tax community as well as the IRS,” he said.

The IRS urges all taxpayers to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before filing, including Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and Form 1095-A from the Marketplace for those claiming the premium tax credit.

“We encourage taxpayers to take full advantage of the expanding array of tools and information on IRS.gov to make their tax preparation easier,” Koskinen said.

Although the IRS begins accepting returns Tuesday, many tax software companies have already started accepting tax returns.

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.

Free options to get tax help, and to prepare and file your return on IRS.gov or in your community if you qualify can be found by visiting IRS.gov and clicking on the filing tab to see the options. Also on the website are tips for choosing a return preparer who can provide information and advice about the tax code and details about national tax professional groups.

“I encourage (taxpayers) to file as soon as possible so if there is a problem, if someone is using their information, it can be resolved quickly,” Krapacs said.

vshank@tribtoday.com

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