As we enter the tax filing season there is often anxiousness as a result of the lack of information and procrastination. With the deadline for filing, on April 15th fast approaching an EMS (Ethnic Media Services)briefing brought together two IRS experts from whom we can learn what’s new this tax filing season and about changes in the Earned Income Tax Credit program, new green energy credits, changes in the 1099K, and where to get help filing taxes at new taxpayers’ assistance centers. Kevin Moorehead Deputy Commissioner wage and investment division of the IRS and Susan Simon director of customer assistance relationships and education at the IRS.
Kevin Moorehead Deputy Commissioner wage and investment division of the IRS
About the IRS in general: As one of the world’s most efficient tax administrators the IRS collects about 4.1 trillion a year which is about 96% of the US gross revenue. During the final fiscal year 2021, the IRS collected more than 4.1 in gross taxes, processed more than 260 million tax returns and other forms, and issued more than one point one trillion in tax refunds including 585 billion in economic impact payments and advanced child tax payments. We started processing 2022 Tax Returns on January 23rd, and we expect more than 168 million individual tax returns to be filed with the vast majority of those coming in before April 18th the tax deadline date. So for the weekend of February 3rd, just two weeks’ worth of data We had received almost 19 million tax returns and processed 16.8 million of those. We had issued eight million refunds averaging 1,963 with 6.9 million of those being direct deposited. All of those numbers are higher than the same time last year, except the average refund amount which is about 10% lower. But we expected that and have been telling taxpayers to expect that too. We know people rely on us for information and help they may need to meet their tax obligation. Our focus is to continue to help taxpayers the tax industry and our employees. While much work remains after several difficult years, we anticipate significantly better taxis for everyone this year. So here are a few reasons for that:
As part of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, we hired more than 5,000 new telephone assistants bringing our phone staffing to the highest level ever. We’ve expanded the in-person assistance in our taxpayer Assistance Center by adding staff across the country and are still working to staff those locations. In a week or so we’ll be entering what is typically our busiest time of the filing season. So I want to encourage taxpayers to take advantage of the many online tools and resources on irs.gov available anytime. There you can find answers to questions viewing your account. Check the status of your refund and you can even pay your taxes all without calling or visiting the IRS. In the fall we started talking about steps people can take to make taxes. The tax filing experience is simple and easy. It’s not too late to take those steps now. So I’m going to cover a few there’s one:
- Gather your tax documents and take time to review your information. Make sure you have all of the documents that you may need for filing your return.
- Second, choose direct deposit.
You know just taking these two steps will get most people to the Finish Line because filing an accurate tax return electronically will avoid delays and direct deposits speed up refunds. There are a few options available to most active taxpayers for free following. We’ll talk more about that. Also, for a 2022 tax return please file one even if you don’t have to because you could get more money in your pocket while people with income under a certain amount are not generally required to file a tax return. Those who qualify for certain tax credits or already paid some federal tax by having taxes withheld from their paycheck may qualify for a tax refund, but they must file in order to get one.
What’s new and what to consider when filing a 22 tax return?
So as I mentioned refunds are slightly smaller and part of that is taxpayers will not receive an additional stimulus payment with their return because there were no economic impact payments for 2022. In addition, taxpayers who don’t automize and take the standard deduction won’t be able to deduct their charitable contributions like they were able to in 2021 in return. Some credit amounts are also slightly smaller.
Also for 2022, taxpayers may still qualify for temporarily expanded eligibility for the premium tax credit. The PTC is a tax credit for certain people whose family member enrolls in a qualified Health Plan. Qualified taxpayers must file form 8962 to compute and take the PTC on their tax return.
Susan Simon director of customer assistance relationships and education at the IRS.
I can’t agree more though with what Kevin said about being prepared to do your tax return. It is so important that you have the information that you need to prepare an accurate tax return. That will be processed quickly so that you get your refund in time to do things you want to do as a family or as an individual. One of the ways that we help taxpayers are by providing free tax return preparation. We have an organization called stakeholder Partnerships education and communication which operates our volunteer income tax-assisted programs. And our tax counseling for the elderly programs. We call them Vita -volunteer income tax assistance and TCE. We are so pleased this year because we have expanded Vita. Our Vita program during covid rather than face-to-face taxpayer assistance and tax return preparation many of our Vita sites had to slow down other Vita sites operated in a virtual manner which caused a lot of our volunteers to be retrained and to be hesitant to do tax returns. During the last two years, we had about 50,000 volunteers throughout the United States doing tax returns this year. As of today, we have 81,000 volunteers in the United States preparing and Puerto Rico preparing free tax returns for individuals and Families. Yesterday by midnight those volunteers, not all of them working at the same time prepared 89,000 returns. We have tripled the number of returns in the first 18 days of the filing season. That’s tremendous news for us because we see that we are helping more people prepare correct tax returns, file them electronically for the most part and receive direct deposit of their refunds. We are hoping by the end of today and definitely, by the end of the weekend our Vita volunteers will have prepared a half million returns. This is a huge number for the US. Throughout the filing season last year, we prepared 2.2 million tax returns so you can see where we are ahead of where last year, and we’re very very pleased about that. Our Vita program allows us to work with individuals in communities throughout the country. It is important that we work through partners, and that we provide the information in a way that taxpayers can have faith and trust that their tax return is being done correctly, that there is no scam going on, and that there is no fraud. Each one of these volunteers is trained by the IRS, they are certified, and they are tested so, you know you are getting accurate information, and the tax return is prepared.
Important items that you need to understand if you are claiming the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit. There is a law that requires that we do not release those tax returns with those credits until mid-February. This helps us prevent fraud, it helps us. ensure that we are sending the money to the right taxpayer. That the return we received is from that taxpayer and that we are sending it to the right bank account or the right address. Taxpayers who have filed already can expect that they will receive those refunds for tax returns with either Earned Income Tax Credit, or additional child tax credit by February 28th, in addition to our Vita and TCE programs. We also have IRS free file. The free file program lets individuals prepare and file their tax returns online through irs.gov using guided tax products provided by some of our IRS partners. It is safe, It is easy, and at no cost for a federal return. We are so pleased that we’re able to say we have these products available, that they are free, they provide the ability for every taxpayer to have a way to file their tax return in safety.
Going back a little bit to the 2021 tax year, we were able to provide larger refunds for some people because as Kevin said there were earned economic impact payments that people were receiving with their tax refund. There were also expanded benefits under EITC i.e. Earned Income Tax Credit as well as under the additional child tax credit. The people who were eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit included younger people who were homeless or about to age out of foster care programs and elderly taxpayers. The additional child tax credit was refundable and it was only for a one-year period what we want to do is ensure that anyone who has not filed a 2021 tax return does so. Our Vita Partners will file the 2021 tax returns for them. They can do that free file as well. It is important that we not leave money on the table. We want to make sure that people receive the benefits that are due to that. Taxpayers can still file their 2022 tax returns and we encourage them to do so.
Our special instructions for people, if their 2021 return hasn’t completed processing. Usually, we want the first return filed first then the next one but they will be prompted by the software. They use to use zero as the amount of their adjusted gross income if they are also filing that 2021 tax return. This is critical. We want people to be able to file both of those returns without them being stopped for a small technical error. I want to encourage people to use the Where’s My Refund tool. It allows people to easily see where their tax return is in the system. It will tell them if we have received the return, it will tell them if we have the return. They can check this on irs.gov within 24 hours after we have accepted their return and this is for electronically filed returns. This tool updates every 24 hours. So if you check it tomorrow morning don’t check it tomorrow afternoon wait until Sunday. It is a 24-hour update period for it. Regrettably, there are times when we’re not sending it out. There are times when people file a tax return and they do owe money. In those cases, they should file by the deadline. Even if they cannot pay the tax owed it is so important that they file that return on time. They should pay as much as they can. if they know that they are going to have trouble paying the total amount. They can request an installment agreement. There is a form that is available on irs.gov to send with a tax return or by itself to request an installment agreement. If you owe money and you can pay the best way to pay is electronic. We have a website irs.gov payments that will give you all of the alternatives and provide the information on how to make a payment to us. We have made so much progress in the work we are doing to speak the taxpayers’ language, to understand what the taxpayer needs.
I want to start first with our over-the-phone interpreter services. We traditionally provided a free interpreter service, if you call some of our phone lines we now have expanded to all toll-free phone lines. You can call to get assistance in one of the 350 languages. In addition, we have over-the-phone interpreter services in our taxpayer assistance centers. We have 362 offices located throughout the country where you can make an appointment face-to-face to resolve any issue, set up an installment plan, make a payment, or ask general questions in those offices. We also provide over-the-phone interpreters.
And new this year?
In every one of our Vita sites, there is also access to over-the-phone interpreter services. So we have gotten rid of that barrier. We are very pleased about that. At the same time, we have expanded what we do online.
In our multilingual initiative, many of our commonly used forms are now translated. We have translated the most commonly used forms not all of them, we are working to build our library of translated forms, but there are forms that are commonly used by taxpayers that are available in Spanish, simplified Chinese traditional Chinese, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, and Russian.
in addition to the forms and publications, we have online tools that you can use in additional languages.
The Earned Income Tax Credit assistant helps people determine if they are eligible for EITC.
The sales tech deduction calculator is a tool that helps you when you are filing your tax return to determine how much sales tax is allowed as a deduction in your state. The free file online lookup tool assists taxpayers in finding the right company to file their tax returns under the free file program, the irs.gov picklist which gives you various choices to pick from and the tax withholding estimator all of those are available in English as well as those languages that are listed.
So that’s a great improvement for us. We’re looking for much more progress as we continue our multilingual initiative through the next few years. With that however we’re continuing to try to meet with communities throughout the country diverse communities like the Asian American communities in Los Angeles, and the Vietnamese communities along the Gulf Coast to ensure that we are meeting their needs, to ensure that we are providing them the information they need to understand the tax system and to be able to comply with their tax requirements. We continue to do outreach to provide information on social media as well as traditional media in multiple languages. In addition to written documents, in addition to telephone services, and in addition to print services we are expanding what we do through our alternative media center. Our alternative media center provides braille, provides large text, and provides translated Braille and large text to those taxpayers who are in need of those services.
We have a taxpayer assistance locator tool on irs.gov as well. You can use that tool to find out where the local office is so that you can set up an appointment and talk to someone in person. These appointments are Monday through Friday from 8:30 until 4:30. However, for the filing season, to assist taxpayers who are not available during those time periods, we are opening our offices not all of them. There is a list on irs.gov on the second Saturday during February, March April and May for taxpayers to come in from nine to four without an appointment.