It’s almost tax time. Do you know what you need to know before filing your taxes?
Mary Lawless, a master tax advisor and enrolled agent for H&R Block in Oakdale answers some questions about tax season to help residents as they prepare for tax season.
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Oakdale Patch: What’s new this year when people file their taxes?
Lawless: The IRS won’t start accepting returns until Jan. 30 and that is about two weeks later than usual. People can still start to file, but it will go into a que. That way when the IRS starts accepting returns then it will go through. Some people think that if I do a paper return then it might go in sooner or something, but that’s not true. The IRS will not begin looking at paper returns until Jan. 30, so you’re not getting a leg up if you do a paper return.
Oakdale Patch: When do you recommend that people file their taxes?
Lawless: Don’t wait until the very end, because that never works very well. … I usually tell people that the best time to have their taxes in is between Valentines Day and St. Patrick’s Day. It’s easy to remember and most people have their forms and have missed that first peak.
Another thing about that specific time, dividends and some forms having to do with stocks don’t need to get to you until Feb. 15.
Oakdale Patch: What’s the difference between filing with a company/agent as opposed to doing it yourself?
Lawless: I think it’s great that there are a lot of different options for people. H&R Block has an office, but it also has online taxes. Doing it online is of course less expensive and we have program called “Second Look” where if you do it online then we will take a look at them before you e-file them. Then you get a chance to know if they are right or not.
I also like being able to meet people and explain the process. I think it’s important for people to be educated on the process and you don’t really get that when you e-file.
I also like to build relationships. I’ve done some people’s taxes for years. To me it’s important to do the tax return and for people to get the best return that they can. I like having the relationships with people and listening to their stories — that’s why I do it. I don’t do it because I like math or something like that; I do it for the people.
Oakdale Patch: Is there anything military members should know?
Lawless: As a military mom, I have some news for our troops that not everyone may be aware of yet. Military OneSource and HR Block Online have teamed up to offer free tax returns for active duty military, including the Reserves and the National Guard. The free return can accessed through Military OneSource (online) and includes the federal plus up to three state returns.
HR Block and Military OneSource have partnered together in the past, but the terms of the free returns vary from year to year. This year the terms are very broad: a military W-2, and a Military Onesource account. Even dependents of soldiers qualify for the free returns.
You have to have your military ID or if you’re a family member you have to have a Deers Card.
Other tax offices out there might be doing it for free too. I don’t know for sure, but if they want to check other options for taxes they should probably go through Yellow Ribbon in Oakdale.