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Updating Arkansans to prepare and file tax returns


Tax filing season is upon us, so it’s important to pay attention to deadlines and changes impacting our families and businesses. Whether scrambling to find documents or well-organized, there are resources to help us successfully complete this annual practice.
Despite having all the necessary paperwork, many Arkansans face additional hurdles to filing or encounter hiccups in the process that slow down refunds.
The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs are good tools to help Arkansans with tax preparation and filing. TCE offers free tax help for those 60 and older, and is especially useful to answer questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. VITA has been helping taxpayers for more than 50 years with partner programs across the country to prepare free basic tax returns. It can help taxpayers who earn less than $64,000 per year, have a disability or need help reading information in English. A number of locations across Arkansas offer this service. As with this program and others administered by the IRS, information is available at IRS.gov.
Additionally, for Arkansans comfortable with filing online, the IRS has information about doing so on its website as well as resources available 24 hours a day.
Another free resource is the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. It provides in-person and virtual tax assistance to anyone, with a focus on taxpayers who are over 50 with low-to-moderate incomes. There are several locations in Arkansas available by appointment and open to walk-ins as well. Find a site close to home at aarp.org.
For the best chance for tax-time success, the IRS recommends filing electronically, which is what more than 93 percent of Americans did last year. The agency has processed more than 1.2 billion e-filed returns over the years. Officials say returns are less likely to have errors when using e-file and most taxpayers due a refund get their money within 21 days.
Regardless of e-filing or sending in a paper return, one thing remains the same. It is critical to get information right the first time. For tax filers who must make corrections and file an amended return, everything slows down.
Another complication the IRS is working hard to battle is the prevalence of fraudulent returns. My office frequently hears from Arkansans who have been asked to confirm their identity with tax officials. If someone else files using your Social Security number or other identifying information, the agency may reach out via mail and request additional verification to make sure the right person gets a refund. It is important to respond quickly to this request because officials cannot continue processing the return until that is clarified.
It is also important to try avoiding any potential scammer who might offer to provide tax assistance only to defraud unsuspecting victims. If you do get help filing a tax return, make sure to work with a reputable tax professional or one of the organizations listed above that are authorized to assist you.
As always, if you have trouble getting information from a federal agency or encounter a bureaucratic problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. We are always willing to provide assistance to Arkansans, request updates and seek answers on your behalf.