'Tis the Season for Tax Tips

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs

12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551

Fairfax, VA 22035-0065

703-324-3187, TTY 711, FAX 703-324-2010

Jan. 3, 2006

’Tis the Season for Tax Tips

“Each year millions of dollars in unclaimed tax credits are left on the table,” says Tom Meagher who manages the CASH (creating assets, savings and hope) program for the Fairfax County Office of Partnerships. As the county aims to assist low-income residents by helping them file their tax returns and get the money they deserve, there’s also an economic benefit of bringing $2 million back into the economy. The CASH program, which brings together county and federal government agencies, businesses and community service groups, offers the following federal tax tips:

Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit for working Americans. Thousands of eligible Fairfax residents do not claim it because they do not know about the credit or think claiming it is too hard. With benefits available for families with incomes up to $37,000 and with maximum benefits of $4,400, it is worth checking to see if you are eligible.

Get Free Tax Filing Assistance

The CASH program will offer free federal tax preparation assistance to low income residents (making less than $37,000 per year) at 12 locations throughout Northern Virginia from Jan. 19 through May 1. For more information, call 703-222-0880, TTY 703-803-7914, Spanish 703-631-3366 or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/partnerships.

Get the Answers You Need

If you are preparing your own return and have questions, you can call the IRS hotline at 1-800-829-1040. You also may visit and download forms and publications at www.irs.gov.

Beware of Costly Refund Anticipation Loans

Some tax preparers and other businesses offer refund anticipation loans that make cash available on the spot for taxpayers who will receive a federal tax refund. Though some find them useful, beware of RALs with high interest rates or administrative fees. A 2002 study by the Consumer Federation of America found that annualized refund anticipation loan interest and charges averaged 150 percent or more and sometimes topped 600 percent. If you decide a RAL is right for you, choose one with reasonable fees and rates.

Know When to Expect Your Refund

If you file electronically and choose direct deposit, your refund should be deposited within 11 days of filing. If you file electronically but choose to have a paper refund check mailed to you, it should arrive within three weeks of filing. If you file a paper return, your refund check should arrive six to eight weeks after you file.

Check the Status of Your Refund

Longer delays are not necessarily cause for concern about your return, as they may only reflect high processing volumes at IRS. You can check the status of your refund by calling the IRS Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954, TTY 1-800-829-4059, or visiting the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov. You will need your Social Security number, your filing status (single, married filing jointly, etc.), and the exact amount of your refund.

For more information about the CASH Program, contact Tom Meagher at 703-324-5319, TTY 711, or via e-mail at tom.meagher@fairfaxcounty.gov.

To request this information in an alternate format, call the Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 711.

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