Taxes can be difficult to sort out even during a normal year, much less one plagued by an unprecedented pandemic. Those seeking some help will find it a little harder this year, but that doesn’t mean there are no options.
One of the best resources for tax help in Lincoln County is the AARP Foundation and its Tax-Aide workshops, which help people of all ages figure out how to do their taxes the best way every year. The AARP Foundation’s in-person sites have been canceled this year, but for those with access to a tablet or computer, there are virtual options available.
AARP volunteer, encourages everyone to learn how to do their taxes themselves, especially during a year such as this. The IRS also encourages taxpayers to file electronically as soon as possible for the fastest and largest refund. It’s easier than ever these days, with a variety of free programs, software and other resources available assistance online.
Those in the $72,000 and below tax bracket can find a service to file free online through a searchable IRS Free File database that can be reached at www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. The AARP Tax-Aide program is another resource that supplements these resources with additional free software and information can be found at www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aaep_taxaide.
Popular and easy to use self-filing tax services include TurboTax and H&R Block, and though the base version is free, the more complicated your taxes are, the more fees can be added. Kuebbing says some users can find themselves in a frustrating position when additional charges are revealed only after all their information has been entered.
Those still needing help can reach out to the Lincoln County AARP volunteers at [email protected] After receiving your information, a volunteer will contact you as soon as possible to determine what tax filing option might be best.
The AARP Foundation is also looking into options on how to help those without access to a computer and hopes to announce possible solutions by the end of the month and implement them by March.
The Newport 60+ Activity Center is also offering virtual classes on how residents can claim stimulus money or Recovery Rebate Credits. Learn more and register online at www.newportoregon.gov/dept/par/.
The following is a list of things to consider when filing 2020 taxes:
• It is important to file taxes by deadline, which is usually April 15. Even if you think you’ll owe money or if you have another issue, filing on time is important in order to avoid fees. The IRS will work with anyone to arrange payment plans or resolve other issues if needed. Filing deadlines last year were extended from April 15 to July 15 due to the pandemic, but no similar extension has been announced so far this year.
• If the IRS did not have your up-to-date banking information, or due to other circumstances, it may have instead sent you an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) prepayment card instead of a direct deposit for stimulus payments. Some individuals may have received the card, but mistaken it for junk mail and disposed of it. If you think your EIP card is lost or destroyed, you can request a free replacement through MetaBank Customer Service by calling 800-240-8100 and entering the last six digits of the Social Security number of the person who is listed first on your tax return. If you didn’t receive stimulus payments or received less than $1,200 if single or $2,400 if married, you may be eligible for a Recovery Rebate Credit.
• Due to Oregon’s tax code, the $1,200 and $600 stimulus payments from 2020 count as income and are state taxable and must be reported, though it is not federally taxable. However, state Sen. Dick Anderson (R-5th District) is currently drafting legislation that would prevent the state from collecting taxes from federal EIP money, both past and future payments.
• Unemployment is taxed and needs to be reported on tax returns. Those getting unemployment should receive a 1099-G form with the appropriate information in the mail. If your form is not received or is lost, many states, including Oregon, allow them to be downloaded from the state’s unemployment website.
• Moderate income workers and families can use their 2019 income to determine their 2020 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) if their 2019 income was greater than their 2020 income. To qualify for the EITC, you must have earned income under $56,854, but if you earned less or received unemployment, you may be able to use your 2019 figure to get a larger refund. The IRS has a free tool on its website to help determine EITC eligibility.
• Filing 2020 tax returns will be important to qualify for future stimulus payments and credits. Even if you don’t usually file, if you owe money or if even you aren’t expecting a refund, it is recommended to file in order to be included. Individuals may even qualify for refunds under certain tax credits even if they don’t owe anything.
• Beware of fraudulent phone calls during tax season. The IRS will never contact you or solicit personal information from you for any reason via phone.
• The IRS official website has information and resources for every aspect of tax filing. It can be reached at www.irs.gov.