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Uncle Sam wants taxes on April 18

Wire • Apr 11, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Tax Day is almost here. This is just a reminder that the date ingrained in all of our heads, April 15, is not really Tax Day this year -- at least for federal and state income taxes.

For those who are procrastinators, you have until Monday, April 18, to postmark your returns. That's because in Washington, D.C., April 15 is a legal holiday to honor the day that President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act months before the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves. By law, D.C. holidays affect tax deadlines in the same way a federal holiday would.

Most local municipalities also follow the same deadline as federal income tax deadlines, but you should check with local authorities to be sure.

As of March 25, the IRS had received more than 82 million individual income tax returns, which is 58 percent of the 141 million returns expected this year. That's about the same number of returns at this time last year and processing is up 3 percent from the last year, the IRS said.

In Ohio, an estimated 2.1 million people, or a little less than 40 percent, still need to file 2010 returns.

Usually, 20 to 25 percent of all taxpayers nationwide file in the final two weeks of the tax season, the IRS said. And, usually, about 7 percent of taxpayers seek a six-month extension to file.

Here are some tips and information from the IRS as the final countdown begins (lots of information is also on the IRS website, http://www.irs.gov):

--Start now to gather information and prepare your return to avoid hasty and possibly costly errors.

--Many tax credits from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are available. There's an expanded American Opportunity Credit of up to $2,500 for tuition, books and fees; a larger energy credit of up to $1,500 and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for larger families of up to $5,666. The $8,000 first-time home buyer credit is still available for people who entered into a binding contract by April 30, 2010, and went to settlement by Sept. 30, 2010.

--Consider using IRS Free File, which is brand-name software, or online fillable forms, to prepare and e-file your returns -- at no charge. Software is available to 70 percent of taxpayers -- those who earn $58,000 or less. And, fillable forms have no income limitations. Get started at http://www.irs.gov/freefile.

--File electronically to get a faster refund, have secure, encrypted transmission and a more accurate tax return. You can e-file through your tax preparer, through commercial software or through IRS Free File.

--If you cannot meet the April 18 deadline, file an extension, Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. All taxpayers can use Free File to submit a Form 4868 for an automatic six-month extension. And, Free File will be available through the Oct. 17 extension deadline for late filers.

--The six-month extension is to file a return only; it is not an extension to pay taxes due. If you are unable to pay your taxes, file a tax return anyway to lessen the penalties and pay all that you can. Then work with the IRS to set up a payment plan or you can go online to IRS.gov and use the Online Payment Agreement Application.

--In addition to Free File, the IRS offers other free tax help services through volunteers at 12,000 sites nationwide. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites serve taxpayers whose 2010 incomes were $49,000 or less. Tax Counseling for the Elderly sites serve taxpayers who are 60 and older. A list of sites is available onhttp:// www.IRS.gov

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'Phishing' scam

The area Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to wary of what are called "phishing" scams in the wake of the Epsilon data breach. The BBB said the breach is one of the largest in the U.S. and news reports are saying as many as 50 companies' client emails could have been breached.

It's a good reminder to be careful of the scams, where a computer hacker uses email to "fish" the Internet, hoping to get you to give up login, password or other financial information.

"These hackers are looking for you to respond with vital information that can ultimately lead to identity theft," said Victor Wlaszyn, CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Ashland, Medina, Portage, Richland, Summit and Wayne counties. "Consumers need to know the red flags in order to keep their identity protected."

By Betty Lin-Fisher - The Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

Copyright (c) 2011, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

To see more of the Akron Beacon Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.ohio.com.

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