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Heath: Tax Season Now Under Way

In his latest column, State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, highlights some of the ins and outs of income tax season and how many taxpayers can file returns at no cost.

Heath: Tax Season Now Under Way

The General Assembly has now completed its third week since convening on Jan. 14. The Georgia Constitution allows the General Assembly to meet for up to 40 days each year. It also allows the General Assembly to adjourn at a later date if it so desires, so long as it doesn’t exceed the 40-day limit. So far, we have completed 9 of our 40 days. Ninety-one Senate bills have been introduced and three votes have taken place. It normally takes several legislative days before bills have made their way through the committees and to the floor for a vote.

Since very little is happening legislatively, I will use this week’s newsletter to address an issue that has been requested. Hopefully I can lead you to some help dealing with something we all dread—the filing of income tax returns. Filing your taxes isn’t always a complicated and expensive task. There are some free services offered online that will expedite the process and get you any refunds as soon as possible. Citizens with individual income tax returns became eligible to begin filing on Wednesday.

As a result of the recent changes to the federal tax code under the American Taxpayer Relief Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was required to make major revisions to its processing systems and tax documents to ensure a seamless transition. This proved to have a significant effect on citizens when they tried to file their tax returns in early January.

The vast majority of households with simple returns are eligible to begin filing now. Individuals and corporations with more complicated returns must wait until the IRS gets its documentation and systems updated. While the IRS continues to update its systems and forms for certain filers, the deadline for filing for most people remains April 15. You may visit IRS.gov for information on when forms and systems will be available.

It’s important that you file your taxes promptly and accurately to avoid penalty fees or other negative action. The fastest way to file your taxes and obtain your refund is by using e-file with direct deposit.

Unless you are claiming complicated credits and deductions, it’s easy to file your taxes yourself. Many e-file services exist. And if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less, you may file your 2012 tax return through Free File, which is a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance. Free File is accessible at IRS.gov.

Free File also has a partnership with the Federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). VITA sets up tax-filing clinics in public places such as libraries and community centers. If you make $51,000 or less, you are eligible to receive services from VITA. For VITA locations, call 800-906-9887.

The Georgia Department of Revenue offers a program similar to Free File. You may access their program at etax.dor.ga.gov. Each and every eligible citizen should take advantage of these great programs in order to save valuable time and money and to speed up the amount of time it takes to receive your refund.

Some of the services offered are free; others have small charges and offer tutorials. In addition, several of these services will work with tax or bookkeeping software that you may already be using.

The delays caused by the IRS will likely have an impact on Georgia’s revenues as early filers are usually requesting refunds of overpaid taxes. This could cause January’s revenues to look high as compared to last January as those refunds are pushed into February. Likewise, February’s revenues may appear low compared to last February.

As always, if there are issues that my staff or I can assist you with, please feel free to call my office or email me. Representing you in the State Senate is an honor and responsibility that I don’t take lightly.

State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen

State Sen. Bill Heath serves as chairman of the Government Oversight Committee. He represents the 31st Senate District, which consists of Haralson and Polk counties and portions of Paulding County. He may be reached at 404-656-3943 or by email at billheath@billheath.net.

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