Tax season is here, bringing sounds of paper shuffling, pen scribbling, computer keys clicking, and frustrated taxpayers sighing. Here are some places to go to make the task a little easier.
AARP volunteers prepare individual or joint-account taxes for anyone with middle to low income, but give preference to those over 60. They are at the Columbia Public Library, 100 W. Broadway, from 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, and at the Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S. Ninth St., from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays. Assistance will be provided until April 15.
Volunteers are available to visit those who cannot travel. AARP also provides on-line tax counseling after the tax season.
Each volunteer is certified through a one-week IRS training course.
Ken Toler, an AARP volunteer for the past four years, said people commonly do not bring correct materials. Make sure to bring your W-2 form, interest/bank statements from the current tax year, your and your children’s Social Security cards and stock sales receipts.
AARP has been helping people prepare taxes since 1968. In Columbia, AARP helped more than 400 people last year. Toler expects closer to 500 this year.
For more information, call 447-4030 or visit http://www.aarp.org/money/taxaide/.
VITA helps prepare taxes from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays in Stanley Hall on the MU campus. This service, sponsored by the Department of Consumer and Family Economics and MU Outreach and Extension, is available through April 15. VITA offers tax assistance to residents who earned less than $40,000 in 2003. The student volunteers are trained through the IRS.
Bring Social Security cards for you, your spouse and children; W-2 forms; a voided personal check or deposit slip to have your refund directly deposited; and if possible, your 2002 tax return.
For more information, call 882-8568 or visit http://outreach.missouri.edu/cfe/poverty/.
“The No. 1 reason that you would want to use a tax professional is because the law is constantly changing,” said Hazel Schlottach, H&R Block district operations specialist and master tax advisor. “And even though you’re very good at your job, that doesn’t mean that you can necessarily do your own tax preparation.”
The IRS says taxpayers are legally responsible for their own tax returns even if someone else prepared them. The agency offers this advice when choosing a tax return preparer:
- Avoid preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
- Avoid preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
- Ask questions and get references from other clients.
- Use a reputable tax professional who signs the tax return and provides a copy for his or her client’s records.
- Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the return months, even years later.
- Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits.
- Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.
- Never sign a blank tax form or sign a completed form without reviewing it and making sure you understand the entries.
Report any suspected tax fraud to the Jefferson City IRS office by calling 573-635-6827 or visiting 3702 W. Truman Blvd., Jefferson City, Mo., 65109. Or call 1-800-829-0433.