About 75 percent of taxpayers are expected to receive a federal income tax refund this year. If you’re one of them, here are five ways to help you keep more of the money you’re getting back from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):
1. Automatically deposit your savings. Use IRS Form 8888 to automatically deposit your refund into up to three accounts. You have the option to deposit some of your refund into your checking account and some into your savings account. You can also use the form to deposit refunds into retirement accounts, mutual funds, or U.S. Savings Bonds. All you need are your account numbers and routing numbers. Contact your financial institutions if you need assistance locating these numbers.
2. Use free filing services. Store-front tax preparers can charge you hundreds of dollars to file your taxes. But many taxpayers can use the IRS’s FreeFile service to complete and file their taxes free online.
3. Compare instant refund offers to direct deposit. Many commercial tax preparation companies market “free filing” or “instant refunds.” But these offers may come with hidden fees and strings attached. Here’s how they compare with making direct deposits from a tax refund:
Time to receive refund
For direct deposit from tax refund: As little as 10 days
For instant refund offers: Seven to 15 days
For direct deposit from tax refund: Free, and you can deposit the refund into up to three different accounts and/or use it to buy U.S. Savings Bonds
For instant refund offers: Fees for tax preparation, refund anticipation check or loan, and to include your state refund. There may also be additional fees if you get your refund on a prepaid debit card.
4. Be sure to claim all credits or deductions. A tax credit lowers your tax bill dollar for dollar. A deduction lowers your taxable income, so the amount you save will depend on your tax bracket. Knowing which credits and deductions you qualify for can be complex and you may want to find a qualified tax preparer to help. Although a qualified tax preparer will generally charge for their service, if you qualify for the earned income tax credit, have children, have a mortgage, contributed to a retirement plan, or paid tuition, the added tax savings may be worth the extra effort and cost.
5. If you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, contact your local VITA site for free help. There are more than 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the United States. These sites offer you free tax preparation and assistance by trained volunteers if you meet the income limits.
Call 1-800-906-9887 to find the VITA site nearest you. To learn more about the VITA program, visit the IRS website.