Don't let the snow fool you. It's the middle of April — and that means your taxes are due. Soon.
Eva Rosenberg, of TaxMama.com, and local tax specialists Brad Heck and David Brauer joined The Daily Circuit to offer last-minute tax tips:
1. Keep records up to date throughout the year. Heck completes his return on New Year's Day: "The reason I'm able to do that is because of daily, habitual, financial habits that enable me to have all the information. ... I've done it in December."
2. Watch out for fraud. Someone may have already filed a return under your name and Social Security number, and may even now be enjoying your refund. Brauer explained, "We electronically submit [a client's] tax returns and get a rejection, saying it's already been filed under that Social Security number. We then contact our clients to let them start checking their credit reports, those sorts of things, so they can get ahead of the game. Typically, the scheme is they're filing fictitious returns with pretends W2s and withholding, and claiming large refunds."
"If you haven't filed yet, we don't know if there's a fraudulent return filed for you," Heck said. "This is another reason I hope our listeners realize that daily, or at least weekly — monthly — financial habits, and having a look at where your money is, and knowing where you stand, is getting more and more important."
Rosenberg said people become victims of such fraud "literally after birth. One woman's child's Social Security number was stolen at the hospital. A few months later, there were three people using it. Before the child was even a year old."
3. If you find out you've made mistakes in the past and missed out on a refund that you deserved, take heart. You can file an amended return and get some money back, if it's been less than three years.
4. If you get a big refund, "It's a red flag to me in your financial habits," Heck said. "You may be using your tax withholding as a savings account. And that pays zero interest" — not that savings accounts pay all that much interest, either.
5. If you're confused about the tax code, cheer up; the experts are sometimes confused too. When a caller working two jobs asked whether he could deduct the mileage of going from one to the other, Heck and Brauer said no. But Rosenberg disagreed, suggesting that while mileage to and from home is not deductible, mileage between jobs is. "That's the exception to the commuting rule," Rosenberg said.
Host Tom Weber asked, if even the experts are confused, what's a taxpayer to do?
"I know what I'm going to do," Heck said. "I'm going to go research it when we get done."