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Sun, Sept. 19

Organization makes annual tax season less taxing

Tax season is fast approaching.

To prepare, people should start to get things organized, said Bill Keenen, certified public accountant who works in downtown Williams.

"First of all, take your time," was Keenen’s initial piece of advice for people.

He went on to say grouping receipts and other important information would help.

"I suggest having some envelopes available to put your W2’s, receipts, etc. into," he said. "Label the envelopes income, medical, charity, job hunting, business expense, stock sales or purchases, etc.

"Then add up the deductions and put it on the outside."

Keenen said this is a great way to organize the information. He said it’s never too early to begin.

"Going through your checkbook is a good start for deductions," Keenen said. "But don’t forget about your credit card statements, which may remind you of travel, medical or other deductible expenses."

Calendars are also a good way to remind oneself of mileage for medical visits, job interviews and other expenses, Keenen said.

Other important questions to ask include: Was there an address or marital change? Was there money received that wasn’t reported on the W2’s? Was there charitable contributions made or a loss or theft?

Once the information is collected it’s time to pick up forms. They are available at Williams Library, 113 S. First St., for people who want to do their own returns. For others, there are a variety of tax preparers available in the area.

The date returns are due this year is April 16 because the traditional date, April 15, is a Sunday.

The name S&P Tax Service is new to town this year, said owner and operator Bill Pettit, who has been providing local tax service under Jack Schwarz for a number of years.

"I’ve been doing taxes with him (Schwarz) for the past 10 years," he said.

Pettit said the name of his business S&P stands for Schwarz and Pettit. Schwarz started doing taxes in town in 1973 and retired this year. Pettit said the biggest change that will affect local people is concerning the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

"There are some new ceilings and more liability for earned income credit, education credits and child credits most people don’t take advantage of," he said

The EITC is a refundable federal tax credit for eligible individuals and families who work and have earned income less than $31,152.

To claim the EITC on 2000 tax returns, people must meet the following requirements:

• Income must have been earned during the year.

• Income levels must not exceed $10,380 for individuals (who must be between the age of 25 and 65), $27,413 for families with one qualifying child and $31,152 for families with more than one qualifying child.

• Investment income cannot exceed $2,400.

• Filing status on returns cannot be married filing a separate return.

• Applicants cannot be a qualifying child.

• Qualifying children cannot be claimed by another person.

These new rules are very serious, said Stan Howell, of Stan L. Howell Accounting, Bookkeeping and Tax Service (A.B.& T. Services) located in Red Lake.

"EITC is a big item," he said. "All requirements must be met and especially important is the advice that if you do not qualify do not try and claim it.

"The IRS is looking very closely at returns with EITC claims."

According to an IRS internet site, more than 4 million tax returns or 29 percent of all EITC returns will be closely inspected before checks are issued.

"Make sure all names and social security numbers are just as the social security card shows and all ETIC qualifications are met," Howell said.

Another difference with filing taxes this year is how people prepare state taxes, Pettit said.

"Arizona is now offering electronic filing," he said. "Most of the changes are for convenience sake."

For the second year in a row, the Arizona Department of Revenue will also be sending postcards to taxpayers who either electronically file or who use computer software to prepare tax returns. This saves the state approximately $100,000.

Keenen said a good piece of advice is don’t throw anything away.

"Some important records to keep may not affect this year’s return but may be needed in the future such as how much you paid for home improvements or investments," he said. "I recommend capturing that information now because the paperwork often gets lost over the years."

Keeping records for several years is recommended.

The IRS is looking for more than 2,600 Arizonans whose Federal refund checks were returned as undeliverable, said Karen Westphall, senior communications specialist for the Southwest District of the IRS.

"These checks total more than $1.7 million, with the average refund being $659 per check," she said. "Refunds, varying from $1 to over $52,500, are waiting to be claimed. If you think the IRS owes you money, call the toll-free assistance line at 1-800-829-1040."

This number can also be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any other customer related questions.

The Flagstaff IRS office is expanding its hours to help taxpayers. From Jan. 10 through April 28 the office, located at 121 E. Birch St., Suite 403, will be open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. This office will also be open April 14 from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and April 16 until 6:30 p.m.

Anyone who hasn’t received a state tax booklet or postcard by the end of January can contact 602-542-3762 for more information or check out the Arizona website: www.revenue.state.az.us. For federal information, check out: www.irs.gov.

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