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Features Top tips for filing North Carolina taxes

Tax season is here and making it easy for taxpayers to understand and file their taxes is a top priority for the North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR). Providing the correct information and remembering a few simple tips will help ensure you have an error-free tax return that can be processed quickly and correctly.

NCDOR offers the following easy tips and recommendations as you prepare your taxes this year.

Filing date. Individual income taxpayers will have until April 15, 2013, to file returns, extensions and payments due.

Gather all your income and tax documents before you file. Filing before you receive all W- 2s and 1099s often leads to errors that require you to file amended returns once you have the correct information. Employers are required to mail W-2s and other documents by Jan. 31.

File electronically and request direct deposit for refunds. This is the most convenient, accurate and the fastest way to file your taxes. Electronic filing will identify common math errors and direct deposit to your bank account means you get your money sooner. Some taxpayers may qualify for free or low-cost electronic filing. Some taxpayers with low-to moderate- incomes may qualify for free tax preparation through the Volunteer Tax Assistance Program. To locate a VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887 or visit the IRS website.

File electronic federal and state returns at the same time. Failure to file both returns at the same time could require taxpayers to amend North Carolina returns if the IRS detects any errors with their federal return. The IRS will begin accepting e-filed returns on Jan. 30, 2013. The North Carolina Department of Revenue will follow the same start date.

Check your address. Every year, thousands of refund checks are returned to the Department of Revenue because of incorrect addresses, and the law forbids the forwarding of those checks.

Make checks payable to the N.C. Department of Revenue if you owe state taxes. Some taxpayers mistakenly send checks made out to the Internal Revenue Service for their state taxes. Payments may also be made on-line through our secure website. Just visit www.dornc.com and click on Electronic Services for Individuals.

File on time regardless of ability to pay. Make sure you file on-time to avoid the automatic failure-to-file penalty of five percent per month, up to a maximum of 25% of what you owe in state taxes. You are better off filing your taxes by the April 17 deadline and contacting the department at 1-877-252-3052 to arrange a payment plan if you cannot pay all at once.

Check to see if you qualify for common credits, deductions or exemptions. You could qualify for popular credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Net Business Income Deduction. Some severance pay may also be exempt if you were laid off from your job.

Charitable contributions. If you plan to take an itemized charitable deduction, the donation must have been made by Dec. 31, 2012. Verify the charity’s tax-exempt status and check with the IRS Exempt Organizations tool to see if your charity is qualified. Credit card donations charged by Dec. 31 and paid at a later date are deductible. Cash contributions and fair market value of donated items can generally be deducted.

Find and use a reputable tax preparer. Be wary of preparers who: Claim they can obtain larger refunds than others; ask you to sign a blank tax return; base their fees on a percentage of a taxpayer’s refund and who are reluctant to offer references. If you see information on your return that is wrong or confusing, you should question the preparer and if not satisfied with their response, called the NC Department of Revenue at 1-800-232-4939.

Questions, need more information or don’t have access to the Internet? Call the Taxpayer Assistance Center at 1-877-252-3052.


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