NEWS

IRS gives tips on avoiding scams

Staff reports

NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana residents who have already filed their federal tax returns may still have questions.

The IRS offers the following tips for those who have filed:

Where’s My Refund?

You can go online to check the status of your 2008 refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after you mail a paper return.  Be sure to have a copy of your 2008 tax return available because you will need to know the filing status, the first Social Security Number (SSN) shown on the return, and the exact whole-dollar amount of the refund. To check on your refund, do one of the following.

- Go to www.irs.gov, and click on “Where’s My Refund.”

- Call 1-800-829-4477 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for automated refund information.

- Call 1-800-829-1954 - hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. local time.

How do I recognize and avoid tax scams?

Even after tax season, there are numerous scams in which people receive unsolicited e-mails, phone calls or faxes that claim to come from the IRS, and which request personal and financial information that may be used to commit identity theft. Typically, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes.

“IRS does not initiate communication with individuals by email,” warns  IRS spokesperson Dee Harris.  “If there are changes to your refund or missing return information, IRS will contact you by mail.”

“Phishing” scams came in number one on the IRS 2009 Dirty Dozen Scams list. (See IR-2009-41) Anyone who receives one of these bogus e-mails, phone calls or faxes should avoid responding, clicking on any links or opening attachments. Recipients may forward the e-mails or report the calls to the IRS using the e-mail address phishing@irs.gov.

Change of address?

If you move after you filed your return, taxpayers should send IRS Form 8822, Change of Address to the Internal Revenue Service Center in Austin, TX.  If you are expecting a refund, also notify the post office serving your old address. This will help in forwarding your check to your new address (unless you chose direct deposit of your refund).

What if I made a mistake?

Errors may delay your refund or result in notices being sent to you. If you discover an error on your return, you can file an amended return.

You should correct your return by using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return if, after you have filed it, you find that:

1.      You did not report some income,

2.      You claimed deductions or credits you should not have claimed,

3.      You did not claim deductions or credits you could have claimed, or

4.      You should have claimed a different filing status. (Once you file a joint return, you cannot choose to file separate returns for that year after the due date of the return. However, an executor may be able to make this change for a deceased spouse.)

What to do if I owe?

If you have not yet filed your tax return do so immediately to minimize the late filing penalty based on the unpaid balance.  The late filing penalty is 5 percent per month up to five months that a return is outstanding.  File your return and pay as much as you can. The IRS will send you a notice for the balance due and will charge interest and penalties on the unpaid balance. You can also request a payment plan prior to receiving the IRS notice.

You can ask to make monthly installment payments.  You can apply for an IRS installment agreement using the IRS Web-based Online Payment Agreement application on IRS.gov. This Web-based application allows eligible taxpayers or their authorized representatives to self-qualify, apply for, and receive immediate notification of approval. You can also request an installment agreement by submitting a completed Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, either when you file the return or when you later get a notice from the IRS.