• H&R Block has three locations in Forsyth: 537 Lake Center Pkwy., (770) 887-1650; 3040 Keith Bridge Road, (678) 455-3150; and 2330 Canton Hwy., Suite 400, (770) 886-5150
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; by appointment on Sunday
• Liberty Tax Service has one Forsyth location: 907 Buford Road, Suite 300, (678) 947-9973
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; by appointment on Sunday
Tax preparers are urging caution when filling out those returns this year.
The deadline for filling income taxes with the Internal Revenue Service is April 17.
Typically April 15, the IRS extended the date this year since April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in Washington, D.C.
Judy Pair, franchise owner of three H&R Block locations in Cumming, said this year’s tax season has been typical.
“It’s been about the same as it usually is,” Pair said. “In January, we’ll have a rush of people who know they’re getting money back. Then it slows down in February and most of March. We’ll get another rush of the people who have to pay in April.”
Angela Nelson, general manager of Forsyth’s only Liberty Tax Service office, agreed.
“There are always peaks during the season,” she said. “We have the first peak early on with people who need their [refund] money and in March it slows down a little bit.
“Next month, we’ll have our second peak of people who either owe or are getting money back, but have stacks of stuff to go through.”
Both Pair and Nelson said the most important step when filing taxes is to make sure everything is filed properly with sufficient documentation.
For example, Pair said, anyone who claims a mileage reduction should have documentation beyond their mileage log.
“The IRS has come to realize that mileage is one thing that people can fudge pretty easily, so that has become an audit red flag,” she said.
As a precaution, she advises her customers to ensure they have strong documentation relating to the mileage.
“I had a real estate agent who was audited and the IRS asked for all the fliers to open house events that she drove to,” she said. “So now I tell people they need some sort of documentation beyond just that mileage log.”
Nelson advises customers to just be completely honest on their returns.
“Sometimes people will try to claim head of household when they’re actually not the head of household,” she said.
“Sometimes a family will say the wife, who maybe makes a lot less money than the husband, is the head of household. But that is supposed to be the person who makes the highest income in the household.”
She said other times people will try to claim more dependents than they actually have.
“The biggest thing is to have documentation for everything that is totally accurate,” she said. “If they believe something is wrong, the IRS can show up at your home — and they don’t have to let you know they’re coming.”
As far as changes in tax laws or credits, both Pair and Nelson said the biggest change this year is the removal of the federal Making Work Pay Credit.
The credit was in effect for 2009 and 2010, but was not renewed for 2011.
“The main thing is that that credit went away this year,” Pair said. “So single filers will see a decrease in the refunds of $400 and married couples filing jointly will see a decrease of $800. Or if they have to pay, they’ll have to pay that much more.”
Pair and Nelson also advised that anyone having their taxes prepared by someone should ensure that person is reputable.
Pair said the IRS this year began a new program in which preparers who are paid to do other’s returns must take an examination and join a registry.
“They need to make sure whoever is preparing their returns is registered with the IRS,” Pair said. “They need to make sure they’re going to someone who’s reputable.”
Added Nelson: “There are a lot of these fly-by-night offices doing people’s taxes. Customers need to make sure that office is still going to be around after tax season and that they’re certified by the IRS.”
Both said any paid tax preparer should be willing to sign the return.
“If someone wants to say the return was self-prepared when they were paid to do it, that’s usually not a good sign,” Nelson said.
Added Pair: “In the end it’s the taxpayer who’s responsible in making sure everything is right, but you want a preparer who’s going to stand with you if there are any problems.”