United Way Suncoast Urges Taxpayers to Avoid Common Tax Filing Mistakes

Tampa, Fla. – January 8, 2018 – Many taxpayers rely on getting their income tax refunds as quickly as possible following the holiday shopping season. During this tax rush, United Way Suncoast warns of common tax filing missteps that can hinder taxpayers from receiving the maximum refund amount owed to them as quickly as possible.

United Way Suncoast urges taxpayers to be wary of these common mistakes when filing their taxes this year:

1) Not taking advantage of free tax preparation services.
Taxpayers often overpay for tax preparation services based on the promise of receiving the most money from their tax return. But last year, Suncoast-area taxpayers saved roughly $3.8 million by taking advantage of United Way Suncoast’s VITA program, in which people making less than $66,000 are eligible to have their taxes prepared for FREE by IRS-certified volunteers at more than 42 locations in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. They can also file for free online at MyFreeTaxes.com.

2) Not maximizing qualifying tax credits.
Each year, nearly 20% of people who qualify for the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) do not claim it on their tax returns! Taxpayers should be sure the tax preparation professionals they choose are fully versed in identifying who qualifies for certain tax credits – and in helping them to claim those credits.

3) Paying for advances…and the fees that come with them.
When budgets are tight, often following the holiday shopping season, many taxpayers rely on getting their refund cash quicker. The catch? Most advances come with steep fees and end up costing more. Don’t be swayed by the promise of fast cash.

Taxpayers should note that by law, the IRS cannot issue refunds for people claiming the EITC or ACTC (Additional Child Tax Credit) before mid-February. This law helps to ensure that taxpayers receive the refund they’re due by giving the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. The IRS expects the earliest refunds related to EITC and ACTC to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards on February 27, 2018, if the taxpayer uses direct deposit and there are no issues with the tax return. This additional waiting period is due to several factors, including the Presidents’ Day holiday and allowing banking and financial systems time to process deposits.

4) Not selecting the fastest methods to receiving a refund.
Combining direct deposit with electronic filing is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their refund. Filing a tax return electronically is the most accurate way to prepare and file taxes, reducing the chance for errors and refund delays. With direct deposit, a refund goes directly into a taxpayer’s bank account.

5) Not maximizing education credits.
Education tax credits can help offset the costs of education. The American opportunity tax credit and the Lifetime Learning credit are education credits you can subtract in full from the federal income tax in addition to deducting from taxable income.

6) Not understanding how the legislation impacts taxes.
The Affordable Care Act is one example of this. Taxpayers should be sure their tax preparation professionals know the ins-and-outs of current legislation, and look for every opportunity to maximize refunds and put more money in taxpayers’ wallets.

7) Waiting too long to file.
For all those in a rush to file their taxes, they are met equally by procrastinators who wait too long to file and risk missing the tax filing deadline. If you can’t make this year’s April 17 deadline, be sure to file a request for an extension.

8) Not participating in United Way Suncoast’s Tax-A-Thon.
On Friday, February 9, and Saturday, February 10, United Way Suncoast will host a Tax-A-Thon event, offering free tax preparation and filing services, as well as financial services such as opening banks accounts, credit counseling, financial stability education and more. Join United Way Suncoast on these days, from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm, at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Dale Mabry, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd, Social Science Building, 2nd Floor, Tampa, Florida, 33614.

“The free tax preparation program is a key component of United Way Suncoast’s financial stability programs, which help individuals make more informed financial decisions and put their hard-earned dollars to work to build a financially-solid foundation. It’s part of our mission to break the cycle of poverty and help every person achieve their full potential,” said Margarita Perez, Sr. Manager, Financial Stability, United Way Suncoast.

Last tax season, more than 400 United Way Suncoast IRS-certified volunteers helped 19,759 individuals prepare and file their tax returns, with $24.5 million in refunds returned to members of the community, including $7 million in Earned Income Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits.

About United Way Suncoast
United Way Suncoast serves the people of DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties by operating and funding support services and initiatives to help create a stronger, more vibrant community. United Way Suncoast fights for the education and financial stability of every person in the community through educational programs that give children the skills to succeed and help adults achieve long-term financial stability. United Way Suncoast creates lasting community change by mobilizing the caring people of the communities it serves to give, advocate and volunteer. To find Suncoast-area volunteer opportunities, visit www.volunteersuncoast.org. For more information visit www.unitedwaysuncoast.org.