Tips for preparing your taxes

Tax Preparation Tips

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - It's almost time to start filing tax returns from 2014, but are you ready?

Tax preparer Steve Brown with Mr. Tax of America says before you get your taxes filed, there are three things you need to do: make sure you have the proper paperwork, beware of scam artists, and always get a copy of your return.

He adds this is the early stage in the game so you don't have to rush.

"Don't be too quick, some people file and then a statement comes in the mail the next day, so make sure you've got everything," Brown said. 

He says regardless of where you go to get your taxes done, make sure they're a reputable source.

"I would recommend someone who's been in business for five or more years, who's there year-round, and I would also check their credentials," he said. 

Brown adds your tax preparer should ask for a W-2 form and not a pay stub, because that is illegal. 

Bridgette Outten, communications specialist with Goodwill, agrees with Brown and says you want to make sure the tax preparer is open year-round. 

"You don't one of the pop-up locations that are only there during tax time because you may need to go to them after April 15 for help with your return," Outten said. 

Outten says Goodwill is offering free tax return services for residents making less than $53,000 in 2014. This service is located at their Career Center on Cross Country Plaza. 

This is also the time of year when scam artists steal people's money. 

"Never give any information over the phone or by email and don't give them your bank accounts," Brown said. "Some scammers are asking people to put money on debit cards, don't do it, the IRS doesn't work that way."

If you added new health insurance under the affordable care act you should receive a 1095 form by the end of January. 

You have until Feb. 15 to enroll in at least the minimum essential health care coverage or you will face a penalty. That penalty is $95 for an adult and $47.50 for children or up to one percent of your income.

Brown says because of budget cuts, mailed in returns and tax refunds may be delayed.

You will need the following forms when filing your taxes:

Social Security Card for you and any dependants
Government issued ID
W-2 or 1099, and any other forms of income form 2014.

For more places offering the free tax services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, click on this link.

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