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Forget about April 15
Taxpayers get Bonus Time to File in 2006
March, 2006 - Issue #17
Go ahead and procrastinate on those taxes a few extra days this year. The deadline to file your individual tax return (or request an extension) falls on Monday, April 17, 2006. For those of you who actually like to plan, March is the perfect time to dig out all those receipts and hit the accountant's office.

Santa Clarita Enrolled Agent and Certified Financial Planner Michael L. Green encourages you to file electronically this time around.

"They may be putting the post office out of business," says Green. "Absolutely e-file. It really speeds up your refund." Green says not to worry about the safety or security of your return, "Some people are scared with all the fraud... but people should have firewalls and protections in place."

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark W. Everson agrees, "We remind taxpayers that e-filing is fast, secure and reliable."

The IRS has made it easier for you to just click and send those W2s. The website, www.irs.gov is being touted as "new and improved." The site boasts a user-friendly home page complete with search engine, and services where you can do anything from check the status of your return to calculate the appropriate withholding. You can even download and print IRS forms and publications.

Santa Clarita Valley CPA Julie Sturgeon says the process is safe and secure, "There are a few people who are so concerned about security. I went to an IRS seminar and we have been assured sites are safe. And it's so much faster it's incredible."

In 2005, for the first time, a majority of the nation's individual returns were filed electronically and over 8 million business returns came via telephone or online. IRS Los Angeles spokesman Victor Omelczenko says the agency expects to process about 135 million individual tax returns nationwide in 2006.

"About one out of our every four federal income tax returns in California are filed by taxpayers from Los Angeles County, and about 1 million of those taxpayers wait until the last two weeks before the deadline to file," says Omelczenko. "As your readers pick up their March issue, they may want to join those who have already e-filed to get their refunds into their pockets faster." Omelczenko says taxpayers who use IRS e-file and have their tax returns deposited directly into their bank account can receive their refund in two weeks or less. That's less than half the time needed for paper returns.

The IRS does not charge you anything extra to e-file, but many tax preparers and software programs will charge you a fee to file electronically. But many find that a small price to pay for getting a return directly into your bank account weeks earlier than waiting for the traditional check in the mail. One hundred and twenty thousand tax professionals use IRS e-Services to help them prepare, submit and research tax returns electronically.

If you do opt to do your taxes yourself, try and avoid some of the more common "red flags" that can trigger an audit. Green says more than ever, parents need to make sure their working age children are not claiming themselves. Green says it will bounce your return. And don't forget to get your name right, "If someone has married, or kept a maiden name, make it sure it matches with what is on file at Social Security," says Green.

If you helped out hurricane victims or the Red Cross this year, make sure you save those receipts. Green says charity is the number one thing people tend to forget about when filing their return. Danielle Cooper with Finch and Associates in Valencia says you can also deduct the time and mileage you spent helping out a charity. "If you drive or donate your time by driving, your mileage is deductible by 14-cents a mile. If it was for Hurricane Katrina, it's an even higher rate."

The second big thing folks forget, according to Sturgeon, is DMV papers. "I most commonly see people missing their car registration," says Sturgeon.

You can also ask for help if you get stuck wrestling with all those numbers and deductions. The IRS offers free assistance by computer, telephone and in person and they can help find free tax preparation services for those who qualify.

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The Santa Clarita Valley's main post office at 24355 Creekside Road will have extended hours on April 17 for those of you cutting it close.
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